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Fiery debate in Rajya Sabha over UAPA Bill; Opposition wants it to be sent to select committee

By Vishal S

New Delhi, Aug 1: The Rajya Sabha witnessed a heated deabte over the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, which would tabled in the Upper House on Friday, as many opposition leaders felt that the proposed legislation could be misused.

While the Congress demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee, the TMC said that the Bill would be used to target people who are critical of the government. The Opposition was of the opinion that the bill does not clearly state as to how a a person would be a labelled a terrorist and could be misused.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal

The Congress-led opposition demanded the Bill be sent to a select committee for further discussion, as in the current form it could be stuck down by the Court. Speaking during the debate on the bill, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said it could be misused to label anyone as a terrorist.

"I support this Bill if you agree to sent this to a select committee. Otherwise I oppose it," Sibal said.

[Lok Sabha passes Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act Bill]

He said every member in the House is against terrorism but at the same time it was the responsibility of all the parties to see that the law is not misused. Citing earlier anti-terror laws like TADA, POTA, he said there were several instances where such laws were misused in the country. "Misuse happens..We want to fight terrorism but we should also know what is happening on the ground...the Bill will be challenged in the Court and stuck down..then again it will have to be brought to Parliament..it is endless process," Sibal said.

He further said: "We are not against the Bill but how will you label a person terrorist? It is not clear in the Bill." He said it is the prerogative of the Opposition to protest against certain provisions of the Bill which they think are not right. "We have lost two Prime Ministers, one Chief Minister to terrorism. Nobody has suffered more than us. Still we know that we should not misuse such laws," Sibal said.

[Terrorist clause in amended UAPA: No cause for worry says Home Ministry official]

Sukhendu Shekhar Ray (AITC), while opposing the Bill, said there was no need to bring the legislation when UAPA Act was already there. He said the Bill would be used to target people who are critical of the government. People would be labelled as urban naxalites and part of Tukde Tukde gang and brought under the purview of this Bill, he said. Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said there should be no ambiguity in the Bill and it should be foolproof.

Intervening in the debate, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the government has brought this amendment bill to designate individuals engaged in terror activities as terrorists. The minister said those like Masood Azhar have been designated as international terrorists and the Bill would help the government to label such individuals as terrorists. AIADMK member S Muthukaruppan supported the amendment bill, saying it is essential to counter terrorism inside and outside the country.

Prasanna Acharya (BJD) too supported the bill and said it has been brought at very appropriate time. However, he said the government should learn from history and "never try to misuse this law". Vaiko of MDMK vehemently opposed the bill, saying that this would strangulate the voice of minorities and freedom loving people. In his maiden speech, he alleged that laws like POTA, TADA and sedition have been misused by various governments in the past. Vaiko said the amendment bill is highly "undemocratic", "unconstitutional" and "unwarranted".

He charged that this bill usurps the power of States, and said the country be called "United States of India". During his speech, he recalled being subjected to harassment under such laws. Supporting the Bill, Ramnath Thakur of JD (U) suggested that the NIA (National Investigation Agency) be made powerful as FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) of US. Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said the discussion on the bill will continue tomorrow along with the reply. He said members are free to speak in English, Hindi or 22 Indian languages.

OneIndia News with PTI inputs

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