An amendment to an anti-terror bill to designate individuals as "terrorists" was passed in parliament today, with 147 votes in its favour and 42 against it. "Terrorism has no religion, terrorists are against humanity; all should support stringent laws against it," Home Minister Amit Shah said before voting on the bill began.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill was already passed by the Lok Sabha on July 24.
Seeking to address the opposition's concerns that the amended law could be misused, the Home Minister said a four-level scrutiny has been provided in the amendment to ensure human rights are not violated.
"It is important to designate individuals as terrorists as they start new organisations once an outfit is banned," said Mr Shah.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the provision violated individual liberty.
"Let me caution you, the government, that it will be struck down. Instead of listening to us here and making the necessary correction, you are forcing us to go about a kilometre away to another building (Supreme Court) and (ask) another set of individuals to strike it down. How does it raise the esteem of Parliament?
"We are doing something which is hopelessly unconstitutional," the former Union Minister said, adding the bill should be sent to a select committee.
The amended bill went through after the Rajya Sabha rejected an opposition-backed motion to send it to a select committee.
Individuals designated as terrorists can appeal to the Union Home Secretary, who will have to dispose of the plea within 45 days. In addition to this, they can also approach a review committee comprising a sitting or retired judge and at least two retired secretaries of the government.
During the last debate in the Lok Sabha, several opposition leaders, including the Trinamool Congress's Mahua Moitra, had objected to the changes in the law saying it could be misused to target individuals and may disturb the federal structure of the country.
Under the new UAPA amendments, the government can impose a travel ban on individuals who have been designated as "terrorists" and seize their properties. The law is in conformity with United Nations conventions as well as international standards. "...There's a need for a provision to declare an individual as a terrorist. The UN has a procedure for it, the US has it, even Pakistan has it, China, Israel, European Union... Everyone has done it," Mr Shah had said in the Lok Sabha last month.
Global terrorists Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed will be the first two to be banned as individuals in India after the UAPA amendments are notified by the government. While Hafiz Saeed was the brains behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Masood Azhar was responsible for the recent Pulwama attack as well as the 2001 attack on parliament.
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