Gujarat is ready with `alternative' if POTA is repealed

GANDHINAGAR, JUNE 1. The BJP Government in Gujarat is ready with an alternative plan to continue to detain the accused in the Godhra train carnage and other cases if the Centre repeals the Prevention of Terrorism Act with retrospective effect.

Sources in the State legal department said the Government could apply the Gujarat Prevention of Organised Crime Act against them.

The draft of the proposed Bill is ready and is now before a select committee of the Assembly. The sources said it might take about two months for the Congress-led coalition Government at the Centre to come up with a Bill to repeal POTA. Unlike as in the case of the repealing of the TADA Act — when the then existing cases under the Act were allowed to be continued — if the POTA is repealed with retrospective effect, the State Government could issue an ordinance to invoke the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to convert the POTA cases under the new Act.

The proposed Act has similar provisions of holding the detenus without trial subject to a review committee's decision on the application of the Act. Now, more than 200 people have been held under POTA in various jails in the State in five cases including the Godhra train carnage, the terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple complex, the murder of the former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya, and other cases.

The Law Minister, Ashok Bhatt, when asked, however, declined to comment, saying that the Government would take a decision only after the Bill to repeal POTA was moved in Parliament. "A lot will depend on whether POTA is repealed with retrospective effect," he said though he did out rule out such a possibility considering the demands made by the alliance partners in the Central Government. Mr. Bhatt said the State Government was totally opposed to repealing of POTA, which would "amount to an open invitation to terrorists to carry out their subversive activities in the country."