GUJCOCA: Why tough anti-terror laws are the need of the hour

When Section 66A was struck down one of the many beneficiaries were Mehdi Masroor Biswas alias Shammiwitness. Very recently when the Delhi police failed to prove charges under the Terrorism and Disruptive Act, they came under a lot of criticism.

Aother controversy has erupted on Tuesday over the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Act or the GUJCOCA. The anti-terrorism law was passed in the Gujarat assembly despite the opposition walking out.

GUJCOCA: Why tough laws are needed

There has always been a major contention over this Act and has even been rejected by two Presidents who had suggested amendments to the Act. However in 2009 when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state, he rejected the amendments.

The Act has been proposed 4 times in 12 years, but has always been rejected. This time around the BJP is hopeful of its passage since the party is in majority at the centre.

Tough measures on terror need tough laws:

In a war against terror, it is not sufficient if the police have the intent to deal with it. They need the backing of tough laws as well. The problem which the police face is that a terrorist confesses in police custody, but withdraws the statement before the court alleging that he said it under duress.

Laws such as TADA and POTA ensured that the confession before the police was admissible before the court and for the prosecution ensuring a conviction was easier.

One must recollect the much praised investigation and the judicial process that followed in the Bombay serial blasts case had the benefit of TADA.

Convicting masterminds is the toughest task:

Take the case of Tunda who was a leader of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba plotting strikes on Indian soil.

However the problem has been when it comes to prosecuting the terrorists. Courts go a lot by the book and in cases of terror a lot of reliance is emphasized on circumstantial evidence. In a blast site one may get the evidence, but then it takes months together before the accused are nabbed.

In such an event, the need for a tough law is extremely necessary not just in Gujarat but across the country. The GUJCOCA is very much on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act of the MCOCA.

Digital evidence:

Today's terrorism is a lot to do with the online world. It is a propaganda war launched on the internet. Moreover all the recruitments also happen through the various social networking sites.

A person like Mehdi managed to spread the message of the ISIS by re-tweeting every information that came his way. However at the time of his arrest the ISIS had not been formally banned in India.

He was booked under a host of sections including Section 66A of the IT act. While it is extremely difficult for the police to prove charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act since no offence was committed against India, the police were relying largely on the sections under the IT act.

However now with Section 66A gone, the case of the police becomes even more harder. They are planning on sedition charges, but these are extremely difficult to prove before the court.

Terrorists look to wipe out evidence:

A person like Yasin Bhatkal carried out five major blasts in the country. He never communicated on mail or phone even once and this was his ploy to dodge the investigators.

In his case, the police will have to rely on circumstantial evidence and also his confessional statement which he will surely deny before the court.

People like Tunda have been away from India for over two decades.. Such persons are never in the spot of action when an incident occurs. They never communicate over phone which leaves the police with very little material.

The communications are very often direct with the conspirators and in several cases we have seen that the mastermind is not even directly in touch with the foot solider. In such cases it is very difficult to bring forward direct evidence and satisfy the court.

There is a lot of reliance on circumstantial evidence which is very difficult to substantiate. An officer says that the task is no doubt herculean and there are stringent provisions under the law which are required to tackle such cases.

Stringent laws needed but safeguards equally important:

While the need of the hour are strict laws, since terrorism is not on the decline, there is also a need to have a committee to oversee the implementation.

It would not be right to give the police all the right to book cases under provisions such as TADA or POTA. Moreover the involvement of the government too needs to be minimal while exercising the law since there have been complaints of political agenda.

What every state needs to do is come out with stringent anti terror laws, but also give equal emphasis to enure that these are never misused.

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