Monday, November 28th, 2022 10:55:36

Home Minister P Chidambaram maintains that present laws are enough to deal with terror menace Smoke And Mirrors!

Updated: May 29, 2010 2:36 pm

A politician thinks of the next elections, and a statesman of the next generation. Unfortunately, the statesmanship is missing in our politics. At present, the politicians are keen to lay-down the lives of the citizens for our country, instead of rectifying the situation. The party in power always wants to paint a hunky-dory picture.

            The Union Home Minister said in Parliament on May 6, 2010, that the conviction of a Pakistani terrorist, who was caught alive, proved that the present laws were adequate to deal with terror menace. But he omitted to mention the acquittal of his two local contacts, about whom the lone surviving terrorist named in his confession, which tells the sorry state of the laws and criminal justice system story.

            The same Home Minister while addressing the Intelligence Bureau on December 23, 2009, had said: “A billion plus people felt they had been humiliated and the country had been brought to its knees by a small band of terrorists. While the nature of the response to different kinds of terror would indeed be different and nuanced, National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC’s) mandate should be to respond to violence unleashed by any group—be it an insurgent group in the North-East or the CPI (Maoist) in the heartland of India or any group of religious fanatics anywhere in India acting on its own or in concert with terrorists outside India.”

            “NCTC would, therefore, have to perform functions relating to intelligence, investigation and operations… . But I am clear in my mind that, without ‘operations’, NCTC and the security architecture that is needed will be incomplete. It is the proposed ‘operations’ wing of the NCTC that will give an edge—now absent—to our plans to counter terrorism.” But unless they are given legal powers and laws amended how can NCTC function?

            He also said India needed more foot soldiers to fight terror as the

response during the 26/11 terror attack was inadequate. “We need to recruit 4,00,000 policemen. They all need to be well trained and equipped. It is better to have no policeman than having a bad one.”

            “Did the crisis management system collapse? Did the country pay too heavy a price before it repulsed the terrorist attack? Did the government fail the people in not mounting a swift counter-attack on the perpetrators of terror? These questions continue to haunt me and many others even today.”

            Obviously, talk does not cook rice and much more needs to be done not only by providing physical training and equipment, but also by the legal authority. All over the world, the countries have knocked down the old and unpractical laws, but our government in India is still sticking to them, or should I say hugging them?

            The Supreme Court has declared on several occasions that speedy trials ensure the right to life and liberty, but obviously, this has not happened. Justice delayed in country is not only justice denied, but justice assassinated over and over again.

            Injustice is the greatest threat to the poorest in the country. The previous Chief Justice of India, who retired on May 10, said on May 8, 2010, about the acquittal in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case thus: “India should consider putting in place a tough anti-terror law that can enable and help the probe agencies to crack terror cases as in most cases the conspiracies are hatched in foreign land and evidence collection is tough.” When asked whether the acquittal could possibly have resulted due to the inability of the ordinary criminal laws to appreciate the hard-to-come-by evidence, the former CJI said: “Most countries have drastic laws to deal with terrorism-related offences. Even Britain has it. So it is time for Parliament to debate the need of a suitable anti-terror law for India.”

            The then Chief Justice of India, while addressing a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of the High Courts on March 11, 2006, said: “The country’s justice delivery system appears to be on the verge of the collapse…Not much has been done for the improvement of investigative and prosecution machinery. Significant suggestions for separation of the investigative wing from the law and order duties and changes in the rules of evidence still lie unattended… The public outrage over the failure of the criminal justice system in some high-profile cases must shake us all up into the realisation that something needs to be urgently done to revamp the whole process, though steering clear of knee-jerk reactions, remembering that law is a serious business.”

            Law Commission in its 177th report said: “The experience shows that where the accused happens to be rich and/or influential persons, or members of mafia gangs, the witnesses very often turn hostile, either because of the inducements offered to them or because of the threats given to them. To protect public interest and to safeguard the interests of society, measures need to be devised to eliminate, as far as possible, scope for such happenings.”

            The Malimath Committee appointed by the Government of India in 2001 to suggest reforms, supported the views of the Law Commission and observed: “Unfortunately there is no dearth of witnesses who come to the courts and give false evidence with impunity. This is a major cause of the failure of the system. The procedure prescribed for taking action against perjury is as cumbersome as it is unsatisfactory. Many witnesses give false evidence either because of inducement or because of the threats to them or thier family members. There is no law to give protection to the witnesses subject to such threats, similar to witness protection laws available in other countries.”

            To say that the present system is adequate, flies in the face of facts and the present existing situation. Conviction of a lone terrorist, with only one case before the honourable judge, after 550 days, is not a matter of credit to the country. It certainly does not show the adequacy of system and you do not need Solomon’s intelligence to divine it.

            There are far too many escape routes for the criminals to get away. Take the case of Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attack, in which 200 plus persons were killed and many more injured. How is it possible for any witness to be available, when everybody was out to save his or her life, and avoid being killed? Or take the case of killing of 76 CRPF personnel by the Maoists in April 2010, and of eight CRPF men on May 8 in Chhattisgarh, how do you expect any independent witness to be present in the thick jungles, and lay his life on the block for just watching the killings, so that he could be available for giving evidence in a court of law?

            A US report on terrorism in India has mentioned that India’s fight against terrorism has been hampered by an outdated legal system and over-burdened and ill-trained police force. If we are to fight terrorism, we must upgrade the police force, train and equip well and do away with all the laws and procedures that which come against the fight against terrorism.

            Corruption should be weeded out of the police and more than that we should not be apologetic in fighting the terrorists and should not mix it with vote bank politics. About the statement of the Home Minister that the present laws are enough, it is best to repeat what Nikita Khrushchev once said: “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where they is no river.”

By Joginder Singh

(The writer is former Director, CBI)

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