Screengrab from the debate (image: LSTV)

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 also called UAPA, which seeks to add a provision in the Act to designate as terrorists, persons suspected to have terror links, rather than just organizations.

The Bill got cleared in the lower house, where BJP holds a majority, despite Congress and TMC MPs walking out. They had earlier sought the bill to be sent to a Parliamentary standing committee.

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi asked for a division of votes for consideration of the UAPA bill, which showed as many as 287 MPs supporting it, while just 8 opposing it.

During a debate, Home Minister Amit Shah said the amendments were crucial to eradicate terror and put the law enforcement agencies a step ahead of terrorists. He further cited examples from other countries, suggesting the “UN has a procedure for it, US has it, Pakistan has it, China has it, Israel has it, European Union has it, everyone has done it.”

“You are asking why are making tough laws against terrorists. I believe toughest laws should be made against terrorism,” said Shah, adding that “We need to unite against terrorism”.

Shah also attacked the Congress, saying if the UPA was right in amending anti-terror laws during their tenure, then the NDA also was right. The Home Minister was referring to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, which was revoked in by the UPA government in 2004.

Last week Shah had said in the House that the UPA government had revoked POTA for “vote bank politics”. He contended that had it not been done, the 26/11 terror attack would never have happened.

 “The only purpose of this law is to root out terrorism. We will ensure that this law will not be misused,” he had said.

Shah further lashed out at people who supported “urban Maoism” (or urban Naxalism), a term the BJP and its allies use against those supporting Maoists. He maintained that the government has no sympathy for them. “In the name of ideology, some people promote urban Maoism. We have no sympathy for them,” he said.

Shah said that it was the Congress under the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which introduced the law, hitting out at the opposition, whose members earlier questioned the rationale behind the law.

Earlier, Congress had criticised the amendment in the law, saying the law was being converted into a more draconian form by designating individuals to be declared as terrorists rather than just organisations. The provision was opposed by YSRCP and DMK.

The UAPA Amendment Bill, 2019, amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Act requires an investigating officer to obtain the prior approval of the director-general of police (DGP) to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.

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