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Gujarat anti-terror Bill passed finally

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Previous versions were rejected by President twice

Revisiting the disputed anti-terror legislation brought in by former Chief Minister Narendra Modi , the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday passed the landmark Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill 2015.

The new Bill is a re-worked version of the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill (GUJCOC), 2003, which was earlier rejected twice by the President due to some of its contentious provisions.

The State government passed the Bill amid strong opposition from Congress members, who staged a walk out.

Citing past terror attacks in Gujarat, Rajnikant Patel, Minister of State Home, raised concerns over Pakistan’s attempts at cross-border terrorism, Gujarat’s vulnerable coastline and the proliferation of criminal gangs, while underscoring the need for a strong law.

“It is noticed that the organised criminal syndicates make a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster macro terrorism which extends beyond the national boundaries. There is reason to believe that organised crime syndicates are operating in the State and thus, there is immediate need to curb their activities,” the government has stated in the new Bill. Among the controversial provisions of the Bill is Clause 16, which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court.

GUJCOC was respectively returned twice to the State legislature in 2004 and 2008 by then Presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil.

An undeclared Emergency: activists

Activists and members of civil society have flagged the draconian provisions of GUJCOC, which was passed by the State Assembly on Tuesday.

“This is an undeclared Emergency intended to muzzle dissent in the State. The government wants to spread fear and terror among activists, NGO workers and civil society persons with its stringent provisions. If there is no bail and period of probe is lengthened, it effectively means that a person can be detained for 180 days merely on the basis of phone records,” Gautam Thaker, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gujarat, told The Hindu.

The draconian provisions of the Bill include Clause 16 that stipulates that “a confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police…shall be admissible in the trial of such accused, co-accused, abettor or conspirator.”

The Bill also provides for extension of the period of investigation from the stipulated 90 days to 180 days.

No bail

Furthermore, the legislation makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable. Clause 20 (4) of the Bill states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, no person accused of an offence punishable under this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond.”

The Bill makes “evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication” admissible in the court.

It provides immunity to the State government from legal action. Clause 25 of the Bill states, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the State government or any officer or authority of the State government for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”

Congress opposes

Strongly criticising the new Bill, Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil said the legislation went against nationally applicable criminal laws such as the National Security Act, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act. He said the State government was not empowered to bring a law that contradicted national laws.

President Kalam had returned the Bill recommending the deletion of the clauses pertaining to confession in police custody, tapping phone and online communication, period of investigation and non-grant of bail.

However, Gujarat again passed the same Bill in 2009 for the third time, which is now pending with the President. The new Bill of 2015 retains the same provisions of GUJCOC.

“The intention of the government is only to play politics in the name of terrorism,” Mr. Gohil told The Hindu.



Some of the key features of the Bill:





1. Among the controversial provisions of the Bill is Clause 16 which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court. The section stipulates that “a confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police…shall be admissible in the trial of such accused, co-accused, abettor or conspirator.”



2. The Bill also provides for extension of the period of investigation from the stipulated 90 days to 180 days.

3. It makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable. Clause 20 (4) of the Bill states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, no person accused of an offence punishable under this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond.”



4. The Bill also makes “evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication” admissible in the court.

5. It provides immunity to the State government from legal action through an ambiguous idea of “good faith.” Section 25 of the Bill states, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the State government or any officer or authority of the State government for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”







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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 3:57:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gujarat-passes-controversial-antiterror-bill/article7053036.ece

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