Probes will now go beyond as new Indian anti-terror law takes shape
New Delhi, Sep 05: The new terror law in India has taken shape and the government designated Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Tayiba boss, Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi as individual terrorists.
The decisions have been taken nearly a month after Parliament approved a crucial amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1967. They are the first to be declared terrorists under the new anti-law, a home ministry official said.
The ministry cited a series of terror acts in which Pakistan-based Azhar was involved that include attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly complex in 2001, attack on Parliament in 2001, attack on Pathankot airbase in 2016, attacks on BSF camp in Srinagar in 2017 and explosion of a CRPF bus at Pulwama on February 14.
It said Azhar was also designated as a global terrorist by the UN under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on May 1, 2019, and was declared as a proclaimed offender by the special judge (POTA), New Delhi.
"And whereas, the central government believes that Maulana Masood Azhar is involved in terrorism and Maulana Masood Azhar is to be notified as a terrorist under the said Act...," a home ministry notification said.
On Saeed, the home ministry said he was involved in various attacks including Red Fort in 2000, a CRPF camp in Rampur (Uttar Pradesh), India's worst terror strike in Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed and the attack on a BSF convoy at Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015.
Saeed, also the founder of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), was designated as a global terrorist by the UN under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on December 10, 2008.
"And whereas, the central government believes that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is involved in terrorism and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is to be notified as a terrorist under the said Act...," the notification said.
On LeT commander Lakhvi, the ministry said he was involved in various attacks including Red Fort attack in 2000, Rampur CRPF camp in 2008, Mumbai in 2008 and on a BSF convoy at Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir.
"And whereas, the central government believes that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is involved in terrorism and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is to be notified as a terrorist under the said Act," the ministry said.
The LeT was listed as a terrorist organisation under the First Schedule to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Lakhvi was designated by the United Nations as a global terrorist under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on the 10th December 2008.
The ministry said Dawood runs an international underworld crime syndicate and is involved in perpetrating acts of terror, promoting religious fundamentalism, terror financing, arms smuggling, circulation of counterfeit currency, money laundering, narcotics, extortion and benami real estate business in India and abroad.
He was also involved in assassination attempts on prominent personalities to create social disharmony and terrorise common man.
The amendment to the existing act states, "who may commit terrorism", establishing that under the Act, the Centre may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism."
Most importantly the law empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same ground mentioned above. The Bill also empowers the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to seize property during investigations in terror cases. "If the investigation is conducted by an officer of the NIA, the approval of the Director-General of the agency would be required for the seizure of such property," the Bill says.
This came close on the heels of the Lok Sabha passing a crucial bill that sought to empower the NIA to probe cases relating to cyber-crime and human trafficking.
The bill gives the NIA the power to probe and prosecute offences listed in a schedule and also allows the setting up of special courts for trials in such cases.
The law allows the NIA to probe cases of human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber terror, offences under the Explosive Substances Act and manufacture and sale of prohibited arms.
More importantly, the bill empowers the NIA to probe cases against Indian nationals in foreign countries. This would however, be subject to foreign treaties and domestic laws of the other nations.
NIA is investigating as many as 272 cases and in that, they have filed charge sheet in 199.
It may be recalled that when the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked in 2009, Afghanistan was keen to help. However, the NIA was not empowered to register a case, probe it and prosecute those accused of the attack. The bill now will give the NIA the ability to probe cases on foreign soil.
The minister said that out 272, in 51 cases the courts have already delivered their judgements and in 46 cases, people have been convicted and "there is a 90 per cent conviction rate".
He said that the people have given the mandate to the government to protect the country from terrorism.