Volume 6, No. 1, January 2005



POTA in a New Form

Not only was POTA not repealed with retrospective effect a new law was simultaneously introduced with much the same draconian clauses. On Sept.21 2004 the President promulgated an ordinance to repeal POTA and simultaneously promulgated another Ordinance to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). But, all existing cases under POTA will be tried under the old law!!! The Ordinaince only allows the Review Committee constituted by the Centre under section 60 of the repealed Act to review all cases under it in order the ascertain whether a prima facie case existed. The review process has to be completed within a year.

The Common Minimum Programme of the UPA government called for the repeal of POTA and utilising only the existing laws for fighting so-called terrorism. But, the amended UAPA expands the sections on definitions to include terrorist offences, and adds three new chapters dealing with punishment for terrorist activities, forfeiture of proceeds of terrorism and terrorist organisations. In other words the UPA government has basically brought in the same definition of terrorist as the NDA government. Besides, most importantly, all the 32 organisations banned under POTA have also been banned under the amended UAPA.

Also the amended UAPA has included the POTA relating to the admissibility of evidence collected through the interception of communications. It also includes, with a minor qualification, Section 21 of POTA, which deals with "offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation". Under the amended UAPA, the accused should have the intention to further the activities of a terrorist organisation in order to be held guilty. So, as earlier, any sympathizer of a banned organisation can be targeted just as under POTA.

In addition the Act repealing POTA does not have any provision to prevent the use of confessions taken under POTA for any trial that is to be continued under other laws. So, if a confusion by the police was earlier extracted under torture this would still be valid even though the new act does not recognize it.

The only difference between this law and POTA is that confessions extracted by police officers will no longer be admissible and there are no provisions regarding bail.

While the BJP vehemently opposed the repeal of POTA accusing the Congress on being soft on terrorism; the other parties like the CPI, CPM, SP, BSP etc wanted the new Bill to be referred to a Standing Committees of parliament. The CPM speaker supported the passing of the Bill saying that if this was not done in the winter session the Ordinance would lapse. He therefore pushed it through to a vote to get it passed. This was easily done as the SP and BSP walked out while the ‘Left’ parties abstained. These stunts were nothing but subterfuge to make a show of opposition. In fact if all had come together to oppose the Bill it would not have got passed. And thanks to the CPM speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, who could have referred it to a Standing Committee, but did not, the Bill is now an Act.

All parliamentary parties are nothing but collaborators in the so called "war against terrorism" which is used to attack the struggling masses. It is only the vehement opposition of the masses that can act to repeal such draconian laws and release the thousands of revolutionaries, sympathisers and also Muslims still held under POTA. There is need for all genuine democrats to continue the struggle against POTA and the new Act, so that all political prisoners may be freed.




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