P Chidambaram in Rajya Sabha (Source: RSTV)
P Chidambaram in Rajya Sabha (Source: RSTV)

Passing UAPA Amendment Bill will be a monumental error: Chidambaram

ANI | Updated: Aug 02, 2019 15:51 IST

New Delhi (India), Aug 2 (ANI): Former Home Minister P Chidambaram on Friday termed "unconstitutional" the amendment brought in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to designate a person as a terrorist and said it will be struck down in the court of law as it violates an individual's liberty.

Participating in a debate on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha, the senior Congress leader urged the government to refer the Bill to the Select Committee for further scrutiny and take suggestions from eminent legal experts for its constitutionality before being passed by the House.

He said it will be a “monumental error” if the Bill is passed as it would not stop here, indicating that the issue will be taken up in the Supreme Court.

“Let me caution you …this will be struck down. Instead of listening to us here and making the necessary correction, you are forcing us to go about a kilometre away to another building and present it to another set of eminent gentlemen to strike it down,” he said.

He said the government’s move to pass the Bill does not raise the esteem of Parliament as it was doing something which is “hopelessly unconstitutional”.

“You know that…I know that…it is unconstitutional. We don’t have the courage to admit our error and say this is unconstitutional. Let us not go forward. At least stop here. Refer it to a select committee. Let us take the opinion of legal experts by calling eminent lawyers like Fali S Nariman, Soli Sorabji and the Attorney General,” Chidambaram opined.

Questioning the need of the amendments, he said the Bill empowers the central government to name any individual a terrorist if it believes so.

“This is why we oppose this amendment. We are not opposing UAPA. We are not opposing the fight against terrorism. We are not opposing empowering the NIA. We are not opposing anything else. We are opposing the mischievous amendment which has empowered the central government to name an individual as a terrorist,” he said.

The Congress leader also questioned the provisions in the Bill saying there is no need to distinguish between organisation and individual on the issue of terrorism as both are covered under law.

“Even before this amendment, individuals are covered under this act. And an individual who is a member of the unlawful association is punishable under this act. Individuals are covered under this act. There is no distinction between punishing an unlawful association and an individual member of the unlawful association. Both are covered,” he said.

“There is no FIR, There is no charge sheet. There are no charges framed. There is no trial in a court. There is no conviction. If the central government believes that an individual is involved in terrorism he can be named,” the Congressman said, adding that the same power applies to a terrorist organisation.

The former minister said that when it comes to fighting terrorism, the Congress governments and the UPA made and amended the Act from time to time.

“No one can point a finger at the Congress. No one can point a finger at UPA and say that we were soft on terror.  We were strong on terrorism and we were hard at terrorists. We brought the laws to fight terrorism,” he said.

Raising concerns over its misuse, Chidambaram said Hafiz Saeed can not be compared with Gautam Navlakha and others who are fighting for tribal and Dalit rights.

“My worry is who you are going to name first. I don’t know who you are going to name… May be perhaps, you may name P Chidambaram. ..Don’t compare Hafiz Saeed with Gautam Navlakha…Varavara Rao…they are all activists …I believe none of them is advocating violence. What they are advocating is compassion…their lean towards poor….the rights of Dalits…In fact the whole nation will watch who will be the first name to be going to be named …if you name somebody just because you believe he is involved in terrorism that day none of us can sleep in peace,” he said.

Chidambaram said the government was at one hand empowering the National Investigative Agency (NIA) but was silent on two key initiatives of the previous UPA government -- the anti-terror hub National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).

“Anti-terrorism stands on three legs. One is NIA another is NATGRID and the NCTC."

“Why are the two in limbo? What have you done about these two? If you really believe ..if you really want to show to the world that you are fighting terrorism..you should also strengthen them…I oppose this Bill because it gives power to the government to name an individual as a terrorist,” he said in conclusion.  (ANI)