Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has expressed serious concern over cross-border terrorism and suggested that such attacks should be treated as offences recognised under the International Criminal Law as ‘Crime Against Humanity’ and tried before a supra-national tribunal such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The CJI said: “however, the obvious practical problem with this suggestion is that prosecutions before this court need to be initiated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and it may be reluctant to do so in instances of one-off terrorist attacks as opposed to continuing conflicts.”

He was speaking at an international meet on terrorism on Saturday, organised jointly by the All India Bar Association, International Council of Jurists, All India Senior Advocates Association and Indian Council of Jurists.

The CJI was of the view that legal response to terrorism must be founded on a rational understanding of the underlying causes for such extremist behaviour.

Counter-productive

He said, “Knee-jerk responses such as the clamping down on civil liberties or a spate of arbitrary arrests and increased surveillance over citizens can prove to be counter-productive. In such an atmosphere, it is only through calm deliberation and mutual tolerance that legal systems of different nations can work together to tackle this problem.”

Terror attacks should be treated as a unique form of ‘armed conflict,’ wherein obligations could be placed on all nations to collaborate in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for such attacks, irrespective of the location of the attacks or the of the perpetrators.

Media coverage

“We must also take note of the fact that symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by pervasive media coverage. The proliferation of 24-hour TV news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a wide audience within a short span of time,” he said.

Mr. Justice Balakrishnan pointed out that one of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage was that it could provoke a disproportionate level of anger amongst the masses.

He said:

“While it is fair for the media to criticise the inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility that the resentment fuelled by media coverage can turn into an irrational desire for retribution.

“For instance, if terrorist strikes are attributed to individuals belonging to a certain ethnic or religious community, then the same may result in unreasonable discrimination and retaliation against ordinary members of that community.

“Such a trend was clearly visible in the United States in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks and has been the cause of communal violence in many instances in our own country.”

Madras High Court Judge E. Dharma Rao presented a paper on “Right to Information in a Vibrant Democracy.” Director, International Council of Jurists, S. Prabhakaran, spoke on the same subject. He also gave an insight into nternational law to eradicate human trafficking.

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