#India -Reject Amendments to Counter terrorism Law

The Terror of Law
December 14, 2012, HumanRights Watch

While India has a responsibility to protect citizens from terror attacks, the counterterrorism law has long been abused to detain suspects for excessive periods, file charges on fabricated evidence, and ban organizations without due process of law. These amendments will make the law an even more dangerous tool in the hands of officials who seek to oppress peaceful critics and minority communities.

(New York) – The Indian parliament should reject proposed amendments to India’s counterterrorism act that could lead to further misuse of the draconian law, Human Rights Watch said today. Parliament should call on the government to withdraw the amendments to the, which is scheduled for a vote in India’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha, on December 17, 2012.

On November 30, the lower house of the Indian parliament passed the amendments to the UAPA, India’s principal federal counterterrorism law, without significant input or scrutiny from the general public or civil society organizations. The amendments would allow the government broad leeway to increase bans on proscribed organizations to five years and widen the definition of a person to any association of individuals.

“While India has a responsibility to protect citizens from terror attacks, the counterterrorism law has long been abused to detain suspects for excessive periods, file charges on fabricated evidence, and ban organizations without due process of law,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These amendments will make the law an even more dangerous tool in the hands of officials who seek to oppress peaceful critics and minority communities.”

The UAPA and counterterrorism laws preceding it have been widely misused to target political opponents, tribal groups, religious and ethnic minorities, and Dalits, Human Rights Watch said. For instance, state police have used the UAPA bans on groups to round up the same suspects after every terrorist attack simply because they had been previously charged – but not convicted – of membership in an unlawful organization.

The proposed amendments expand the definition of the “person” who can be charged under the law to include “an association of persons or a body of individuals, whether incorporated or not.” Human Rights Watch expressed concern that this would allow the police to charge an individual merely on the grounds of contact with a suspect.

The amendment increasing the period for which an association can be declared as unlawful from two years to five years will allow the authorities to ban for a longer period an organization it opposes, even though the organization has not been found unlawful by a court.

“Extending the ban on groups from two to five years without a court determination is a recipe for abuse,” Ganguly said. “The police and investigating agencies could arrest people for being part of a banned organization even though a court never found it to be involved in terrorism.”

The amendments also expand the definition of “terrorist act” to include acts that threaten the economic security of India and damage its monetary stability by production, smuggling, or circulation of “high quality” counterfeit currency. These crimes are not recognized terrorism offenses and are already covered by the Indian Penal Code. Including them under a more stringent counterterrorism law seems intended to make obtaining bail more difficult and to allow for a longer pre-charge detention period, Human Rights Watch said.

The bill would also enlarge the scope of punishment for raising funds to commit a terrorist act or for the benefit of terrorists irrespective of whether they have actually been used to commit a terrorist act. As long as one had knowledge that “such funds are likely to be used, in full or in part by such person or persons or by a terrorist organisation or by a terrorist gang or by an individual terrorist to commit a terrorist act,” that person is culpable.
When opposition members called for a more thorough discussion of the amendments, India’s home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, told parliament that the government would never allow the misuse of the law and that the amendments would bring clarity to the exiting framework and remove deficiencies.
“The government’s claim that the law won’t be misused disregards the recent history of abuse of counterterror laws that have left suspects languishing in jail for years before being acquitted for lack of evidence,” Ganguly said. “Bad laws not only violate international human rights standards, but are counterproductive because abuses are used as a recruiting tool by extremist groups.”

In 2008, following an attack in Mumbai, the government amended the UAPA by borrowing from earlier counterterrorism legislation that had been allowed to lapse or been repealed because they had led to serious rights violations. These laws ­– the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1985 (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA) – had enabled serious human rights violations by government forces during counterterrorism operations.

The 2008 UAPA amendments also increased the risk of arbitrary detention, custodial abuse, and violation of basic due process rights by allowing courts to double the maximum period of

detention without charge for terrorism suspects. A judge can now extend pre-charge detention from the 90 days allowed under the Indian criminal code to 180 days upon a vaguely defined special request from a prosecutor. The law also doubles the maximum period of police custody from the 15 days allowed under the Indian criminal code to 30 days.

Following the passage of amendments in 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote a detailed report discussing the problematic provisions and offering recommendations to the Indian government to prevent abuses. Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to revise the definition of terrorism and ensure that restrictions on organizations respect the right to freedom of association under international law. Human Rights Watch also urged the repeal of provisions such as those authorizing pre-charge detention for up to 180 days, limitations on bail, presumption of guilt in certain circumstances, and overly broad search, seizure, and arrest.

“It is sad that efforts by civil society groups to repeal or amend abusive laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act get ignored by the government,” said Ganguly. “Yet, when it comes to enacting new laws likely to cause further abuse, the government forces them through without any serious public discussion, at the expense of due process, justice, and India’s global image.”

Govt not to oppose bail for top Maoist leader


Nov 23rd,2012
Subject: DNA – Govt not to oppose bail for top Maoist leader


In a bid to encourage surrender by Maoist leaders and cadres, the Centre, in consultation with the Jharkhand government, has decided not to oppose the bail plea of former CPI (Maoist) politburo member Sushil Roy on humanitarian grounds.

Terminal ill Roy is suffering from cancer and is currently going through treatment at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi.

The home ministry sources said the decision of not opposing Roy’s bail was taken after some civil rights activists met Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde a week ago and asked for Roy’s release on humanitarian grounds.

Roy, popular as comrade Som, is one of the senior most Maoist leaders and has to his credit overseeing the merger of PWG, Party Unity and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) into CPI (Maoist) in September 2004. Roy was arrested by West Bengal police on 22 May 2005 and was charged with 11 cases relating to sedition, extortion and waging war against state by West Bengal and Jharkhand governments.

By not opposing Roy bail plea, sources said, the government wants to send a positive signal to all the hardened Maoist leaders and cadres that the government will have a soft approach if they chose to surrender.

Of late, septuagenarian Roy has also advocated ceasefire between government and CPI (Maoist) to pave the way for peace talks.

The government believes that Roy’s case could prove to be a test case and ease out the way for those who now believe that they cannot humble the state through violence and killings but are unable to come out and surrender because of sheer fear.



Nine death penalties wrongly imposed: Ex-judges to President

Manoj Mitta, TNN | A


The miscarriage of justice has prompted 14 retired judges of SC and HCs across the country to appeal to President to turn 9 death penalties into life sentence.

NEW DELHI: They are on death row even after the Supreme Court admitted — not once but thrice — that the decisions awarding death sentences had been rendered per incurium (in ignorance). The miscarriage of justice has prompted 14 retired judges of the SC and high courts across the country to appeal to President Pranab Mukherjee to turn the capital punishment imposed on nine persons into life sentence.

Led by former SC judge P B Sawant, the 14 retired judges signed up separate letters to the President pointing out that the death sentences given to these nine persons by various two-judge benches of the SC were “contrary to the binding dictum of rarest of rare” propounded in the 1980 five-judge bench verdict in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab.

The Bachan Singh prescription of weighing the circumstances relating to “the crime as well as the criminal” before pronouncing a death penalty was disregarded for the first time in 1995 in Ravji Ram Chandra vs State of Rajasthan where a two-judge bench ruled that it was “the nature and gravity of the crime but not the criminal, which are germane for consideration of appropriate punishment in a criminal trial.”

The Ravji approach of focusing on the aggravating circumstances (namely, the crime) at the expense of the mitigating circumstances (namely, the criminal) served as a precedent to at least six judgments, leading to the hanging of Ravji in 1996 and Surja Ram the following year. The erosion of the rarest-of-rare doctrine was finally decried by the SC in 2009 in Santosh Bariyar vs State of Maharashtra, followed by two more such correctives in 2010 and 2011. Earlier this year, the then President, Pratibha Patil, accepting the then home minister P Chidamabaram’s recommendation, commuted the death sentence to life in two of the seven cases, which had been guided by the Ravji verdict rather than the Bachan Singh verdict.

Responding to a campaign launched by human rights lawyer Yug Mohit Chaudhry, the 14 retired judges, who include five former chief justices of HCs, wrote to the President to commute the capital punishment in the remaining five cases involving nine persons. The appeals from the retired judges were sent to the President on Friday. With the change of guard in the home ministry, all pending mercy petitions from death penalty convicts are due to be considered afresh by the new home, Sushilkumar Shinde.

In their appeals, the retired judges took pains to clarify that none of the cases in question involved crimes against the state. Further, the concerns raised in their appeals have nothing to do with the larger debate about the desirability of retaining the death sentence.

“Rather they pertain to the administration of the death penalty in a conscientious, fair and just manner,” the ex-judges said. “Executions of persons wrongly sentenced to death will severely undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system. This matter goes to the very heart of our Constitution because it involves the taking of lives by the state on the basis of judgments admitted to be erroneous by the Supreme Court.” Those who signed these unprecedented appeals also include Justices A P Shah, B A Khan, Bilal Nazki, P K Misra, S N Bhargava, B H Marlapalle, B G Kolse-Patil, Hosbet Suresh, Prabha Sridevan, K P Sivasubramaniam, Ranvir Sahai Verma, P C Jain and Panachand Jain.



Team Anna lived by the media and is dying by the media #IAC #Janlokpal #Annahazare


Anna Hazare on Fast unto Death

Anna Hazare on Fast unto Death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A media creation


Sujata Anandan, Political Editor, Hindustan Times
August 01, 2012




When the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, with Anna Hazare at its head, began their protests amid much excitement and frenzy last year, I was among the first to say that it left me cold, reminding me suspiciously of a real life Peepli Live from Jantar Mantar

More than once in this column, too, I have stretched my neck and stated that Anna and his “team’’ are a media creation – essentially the electronic media and mostly by those from outside Maharashtra who had had no idea about what this so-called Gandhian was all about.

The amount of abuse I received from 18 year-olds to 80 year-olds, all of who mistakenly believed that I was supporting corruption rather than pointing out the truth, was truly unbelievable. But while the rest of the world was ecstatic at discovering this so-called Gandhian – an insult to Mahatma Gandhi, given the vast difference between the intellect of the original and the wannabe – at least media persons in Hazare’s home state knew what he was all about: a flip-flop man who sailed with the wind and who believed everything he heard, without checking out the facts for himself and a tinpot dictator in his own village. But more importantly, even in the 1990s, without the advantage of so many TV channels, a media creation by those of us who were absolutely enthralled at the manner in which he seemed to take on the mighty (chief minister) Sharad Pawar. He was then supported by Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray but, being easily influenced, he went hammer and tongs at Thackeray, too, in no time at all.

And how he was manipulated by his handlers became very apparent when he thought he was exploding a real estate scam against then deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde – but all that he ended up doing was hurting Munde’s family by bringing his private liaison with a tamasha dancer into the public domain.

However, what took the cake was that while he was exposing corruption against the ministers in the Maharashtra government, his own Hind Swaraj Trust was found guilty of misappropriation of funds – a fact ratified by a judicial commission and one to which Anna admitted and apologised. The media disillusionment with Anna was by then complete. But neither the ministers at the Centre in the UPA nor the people outside Maharashtra knew what Anna was all about. Rather than relying on the three former CMs from the state in the Union Cabinet (Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and SushilKumar Shinde) to neutralise Hazare, the government was taken in by all the media hype, only to accord the movement the legitimacy it did not deserve.

“They should have made use of me long before they did,’’ Deshmukh told me recently. Deshmukh had Anna’s measure but so did Pawar and Shinde, all of who had played him along through various agitations while at the same time meeting him halfway on his demands that did succeed in cleaning up their governments and getting rid of some corrupt elements (the IAC hasn’t even come close). However, as one senior All India Congress Committee general secretary told me some months ago, “Our ministers just sit before television and believe that everything that is hyped up on this or that popular channel is the gospel truth. They have added to the myth of Anna Hazare.’’

But now that myth has been busted – by those in the media outside Maharashtra (remember how Anna left the Bombay media cold last December, leading to the downfall of his movement?), given that the contradictions in Team Anna are now starkly visible, as are the differences between them, the scams against various members and, more importantly, the dwindling crowds at IAC rallies.

But while people like Shanti Bhushan were quite happy to go along with the very same media `looping’ images of crowds throughout the day last year that made the movement larger than life, they seem to now have a serious problem with the thin crowds at the IAC rallies being similarly looped through the day. And though there are other reasons for the thin crowds (lack of RSS participation, for example), I guess it is only Anna Hazare (and not those who actually abused the media) who apologises because he alone has past experience of what it means to live by the sword and die by the sword: the media, in this regard.

I guess the IAC’s Peepli Live moment is now well and truly over.




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