Skip to main content

Awaiting Presidential nod, Gujarat anti-terror bill "qualifies" anti-govt protests as an act of terrorism

By Our Representative
Gujarat's two senior human rights activists have said that the Gujarat Control of Terror and Organised Crime (GUJTOC) Bill, 2015, currently awaiting the President’s assent, on paper seeks to curb organised crime and terrorism, but, in practice, will prove to be a “no-holds-barred attack on free speech.” In fact, they believe, thanks to its vague language, it will be a “codified a means for police intimidation” to quash any opposition to governmental decisions, terming them “terrorist.”
Alleging that it will be used particularly against the minority communities like Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA) and Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA, both of whom were repealed following uproar, the activists say, it is well known how POTA, “in its short life of a little over two years, was the legal means to register 287 cases in Gujarat – all against Muslims, barring one; a similar pattern was observed with TADA.”
The activists – Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah – in an article in the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) “Bulletin” – have said, “the most worrisome aspect” of GUJTOC is that it “makes no distinction between acts of terrorism, criminal activity and legitimate protest against the government anti-people policies.”
Giving details of the “draconian” provisions of the Bill, they say, “It defines 'terrorist act' as 'intention to disturb law and order, or public order, or to threaten the unity, integrity…', adding, sections 2(1)(d), (e), and (f), in effect, term any opposition to the government's efforts to amend or bring in laws related to labour, environment, land acquisition would be “construed as an actual act of terrorism, and a concerned citizen expressing dissent can be prosecuted.”
Sections 5 “introduces the provision of the special court "taking cognisance of any offence without the accused being committed to it for trial" on the basis of a mere police report, and section 14 allows evidence collected through the "interception of wire, electronic or oral communication” admissible in the court against accused, activists say.
“Section 16 allows a confession that was recorded before a police official of Superintendent of Police rank to be admissible in a trial against the accused or any of the other accused in a case”, the activists says, adding, this virtually “overrides” Section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Sections 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which specifically prohibit the use of statements made to police officers in evidence.
A provision in section 17, the activists say, “empowers the special courts to hold the trial in-camera and take any measures necessary for concealing the identity and address of the witnesses”, and “allows court to make a decision that 'it is in the public interest to order that all or any of the proceedings pending before such a Court shall not be published in any manner'.”
“In an attempt to gag any reporting on trial proceedings, the law imposes a punishment of Rs 1 lakh along with a one-year prison sentence. This gag order by the court will penalize the few journalists who follow the cases in court, while leaving the initial frenzy of police stories untouched. Not to mention, snuffing out public scrutiny of the government's case.”, the activists underline.
Giving other details, activists say, Clause 20 (3) “removes the option of anticipatory bail”, and clause 20 (4) provides for “extremely restrictive conditions regarding bail, almost mandating the acquiescence of the public prosecutor”, and Clause 20 (5) “denies bail even if the accused had been released on bail in an offence under any other law on the date of the offence.”
Then there is Section 22 which “shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused in certain circumstances. In doing so, it dispenses with the presumption of innocence of the accused and breaks the 'golden thread' of criminal jurisprudence, requiring the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt”, the activists say.
Further, there is Section 25which grants “ complete immunity to all state functionaries for any action taken under the provisions of the Bill”, which effect means “impunity to police officers for torture and extra-judicial methods employed in criminal investigations, under the garb of anti-terror operations”.

Comments

TRENDING

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Protests break out as school going children 'branded Naxalites, taken prisoners'

By Sheshu Babu* Conditions in all spheres of life is going from bad to worse. On September 13, Political Prisoners' Day was observed. On that day, Jatin Das, friend of Bhagat Singh and member of the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association, passed away after 63 days of hunger strike. He demanded 'political prisoners' status to those who have been jailed by the state.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.