A meeting on the proposed Prevention of Terror ism Bill was held in Mumbai at the YMCA on June 28, 2000. This meeting is a part of the YMCA monthly lecture series jointly organised by India Centre for Human Rights and Law (ICHRL) and YMCA — a forum intended as a platform for discussion and debate on important political, social and legal issues.
The meeting was addressed by senior advocate, Lalit Chari who noted that the offences listed in the Bill as acts of terrorism were offences that were already punishable under ordinary criminal law existing today, thereby questioning the efficacy for a permanent anti–terrorism law. Besides, a permanent anti–terrorism law applicable to the entire country implied that the whole of India was a terrorist state. He discussed the main provisions of the Bill, highlighted the loopholes and explained the possible consequences of the same for the personal liberty of individuals. He critically viewed the provisions of the Bill that violated established principles of constitutional and criminal jurisprudence. These include restricted right to bail, shifting burden of proof on the accused, denial of right of appeal to High Court, trying trials punishable with upto three years’ imprisonment by a summary procedure, and the assumption of guilt of an accused who refuses to part with his body fluids for forensic examination. Thus, according to him, the whole bill is violative of life and liberty of individuals, and has a great scope for misuse by the law enforcement machinery.
SA Uraizee, a former judge, laid emphasis on the possible impact of the Bill on the rights of minorities and other socially disadvantaged sections of people. He viewed the Bill as yet another instrument through which state repression would be perpetuated. He was deeply concerned that any form of political protest or social upheaval, in the nature of demands of constitutional guarantees, and the right to assert these rights vocally, would be crushed through provisions of the Bill. He was also apprehensive that the Bill would place the destiny of millions of people in the hands of police officers, many of who have little knowledge of existing laws, leading to arbitrariness and gross misuse. He concluded by saying that the introduction of the bill would be a heinous act perpetrated on the intellectual conscience of the country.
The meeting ended with the circulation of letters addressed to the President and Prime Minister of India, in protest of introduction of the Bill, for signatures of the participants.
Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2000. Year 7, No. 60, Breaking Barriers 2