(This post forms the second of a three-part article. The next one attempts to debunk the myth of tougher terror laws).

The overwhelming public response to laxities in handling terrorist attacks and security threats has prompted the Government to formulate a proposal for a federal anti-terror agency. The proposal, incorporated as an amendments to the National Security Act, 1980 is expected to be tabled in the upcoming Parliamentary session. The Bill, currently in its nascent stages, has not been placed before the public yet; we’ve relied solely on secondary sources to analyze the amendments.

The changes to the existing law include

  • Setting up of a National Security Authority that will take charge of administration and supervision of all investigation of terrorism-related crimes across the country
  • The Authority, comprising a Chairman and five members, will be responsible for prosecuting the accused
  • The appointment of a Security Commissioner (a high-ranking IPS officer) in each State, who will report directly to the Authority
  • Stringent Bail provisions
  • Fast-track Courts
  • Death Penalty (no surprises here)
  • Freezing of assets and bank accounts of those accused and their overt and covert sympathizers and sponsors
  • Punishment for those found guilty of raising funds or sponsoring terrorist acts, conspiracy, harbouring terrorists or threatening witnesses

While the attempts to usher in reform are perhaps well-intentioned, the proposed changes do not seem to be a radical digression from the extant system. The introduction of a National Security Authority will merely augment excessive bureaucratization, the very lapse currently being highlighted post-Mumbai. The Authority seems to be quasi-judicial, with powers to prosecute the accused. In this regard, it is important to note that the framework seems to base itself on the ethos of Tribunalization. While the main purpose of creating alternative judicial forums is to expedite the process of justice delivery, the same attitude cannot be adopted in an issue of such magnitude. Quasi-judicial authorities or fast-track courts are not the solution to tackle terrorism, as it involves a long, extended process of collecting evidence and arriving at conclusions. The allegations raised towards the accused will be, no doubt, grave – it is important that the veracity of claims is brought out through extensive investigation and not speedily dismissed. Missing the target will not only fail to curb terrorism, but also reduce the public’s faith in the legal machinery.

One may question the role of the Security Commissioner in each State; are they acting as officers of this quasi-Court? Will their findings and observations be treated as evidence? Is the State Police involved in assisting the Security Commissioners? What difference does such appointment bring about, apart from adding an unnecessary intermediary? These are questions to which the Government must respond. The onus upon the establishment to effectively tackle terrorism cannot be guised in the form of knee-jerk reactions.

The other provisions seem to belong to the macho-class of anti-terror laws. They have been advertised as tougher, more stringent norms to curb the menace of terrorism. However, tough does not mean efficient, as my next post will hope to convince.

(To be continued…..)

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