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More teeth for Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 24, 2019 Published on July 24, 2019

Govt accedes to lone member’s demand for division on passing the Bill; Amendments approved by margin of 287 in favour and 8 against

A Bill to further strengthen the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed in the Lok Sabha amid an unprecedented move of the House yielding to a division of votes on the demand of a lone MP, Asaduddin Owaisi of the All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), even as a majority of the Opposition parties walked out.

Home Minister Amit Shah piloted the bill which seeks to define individuals as ‘terrorists’, give powers to the investigating agency to attach property of the accused, and widens the scope of activities that fall under as ‘terrorism’. He rejected the Congress MP Manish Tiwari’s argument that stringent laws don’t curb terrorism.

“I reject Manish Tiwari’s suggestion that political process and dialogue eliminate terrorism and stringent laws don’t. I believe, just as we believed when we were in Opposition and the Congress brought in amendments in the UAPA, that terrorism should be tackled with a strong hand and stringent laws,” said Shah.

‘Congress, a hypocrite’

Shah said it was hypocritical of the Congress to now take a position different from the one it took while it was in power.

“The UAPA was introduced in 1967 when the Congress was in power and Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Then it was amended in 2014 when Manmohan Singh was the PM and again in 2013 during his tenure. We did not bring this law nor its subsequent amendments. But we supported it in national interest then and we strongly support it now,” said Shah.

The debate on the UAPA amendments started on Tuesday evening when Manish Tiwari asserted that the process of political dialogue curbs terrorism rather than stringent laws that lend themselves to misuse. The debate continued on Wednesday with many Opposition members, including Mohua Mitra of the Trinamool Congress; Karti Chidambaram of the Congress; and NK Premchandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), raising concerns about the misuse of the act against political opponents as well as the bearing it has on federalism.

Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, who has been vehemently opposing the Bill citing various instances of its misuse against minorities specifically, demanded a division in votes for the passage of the Bill.

Accusing Owaisi of trying to waste time, the ruling party members urged him not to insist on division. Heated exchanges followed between Owaisi and members of the NDA.

“It is my right...Who are you to object...House belongs to everyone”, insisted Owaisi.

With no option left, Speaker Om Birla pressed the process of division which was conducted through paper ballots. The electronic voting machine could not be used as the members have not been allotted division numbers. The government’s resolution was adopted with 287 in favour and eight against.

Published on July 24, 2019
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