Following an assurance from the Centre that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2012 was not targeted against any community, religion or caste, Parliament on Thursday passed legislation that seeks to expand the definition of “terrorist act” by incorporating offences that threaten India’s economic security, including circulation of high value counterfeit currency and financing of terrorist activities.
However, seeking wider consultations on the Bill, several parties, including the Left, the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Jan Shakti and the Janata Dal (Biju), staged a walk out in the Rajya Sabha when the Bill was considered and passed by voice vote. The Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha during the current session.
Comparing the legislation to “the draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act [TADA] and the Prevention of Terrorism Act [POTA],” several members expressed apprehension, saying the amended UAPA Bill had the potential to be misused against innocent people. Mohammad Adeeb (Independent), D. Raja (CPI) and Ram Vilas Paswant (LJP) suggested that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, while the RJD’s Ram Kirpal Yadav wanted it “reconsidered.”
“The Bill is about terrorism and high value counterfeit currency. It is not about caste or community. Today terrorism is not about guns and bombs but by money that can damage an economy. The Act does not give sweeping powers to the police and there are checks and balances that will prevent misuse of the Act,” said Minister of State R.P.N. Singh during the debate on the issue in the Rajya Sabha.
He said an individual, group of individuals, or an association involved in counterfeit currency circulation will be covered under the law and it was not directed against innocent people. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was present when the MoS was replying.
An amendment moved by the CPI (M), seeking to take trade unions out of the purview of the Act, was negated by a majority of 79 members out of the 107 present and voting. Twenty-eight members voted in favour of the amendment.
A BJP member did not press his amendment on including non-government organisations (NGOs) under the Act to cover funding from NGOs based abroad.
The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to make it more effective in preventing terrorist activities and to fulfil the obligations made with the Financial Action Task Force — an Inter-governmental Organisation set up to devise policies to combat money laundering and terror financing.
The Bill amends the original Act to expand the definition of a ‘person’ to include an individual, a Hindu undivided family, a company, a firm, an association of persons or a body of individuals, every artificial juridical person, any agency, office or branch owned or controlled by any person falling within any of the preceding subclauses.
It defines the “proceeds of terrorism” as “property which is being used, or is intended to be used for a terrorist act or for the purpose of an individual terrorist or a terrorist gang or a terrorist organisation,” including property intended to be used for terrorism.
As per the Bill the punishment for raising funds for terrorist acts shall not be less than five years, which may be extended to imprisonment for life.