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Show-cause notice to T.N. on arrests of Vaiko, Gopal

By J. Venkatesan

New Delhi Nov. 13. The Central Review Committee headed by Justice A.B. Saharya today issued a show-cause notice to the Tamil Nadu Government asking it to explain whether it was "fit and proper" to apply the Prevention of Terrorism Act against the MDMK leader, Vaiko, and eight others, and the Editor of Nakkheeran, R.R. Gopal.

The committee, which includes M.U. Rehman, IAS (retd.) and Arvind S. Inamdar, IPS (retd.) as members, issued the notice at the end of its two-day meeting to review the cases of those detained under POTA.

The committee, which has now been empowered to provide relief to POTA victims, is said to have come to the prima facie conclusion that POTA is not attracted in the case of Mr. Vaiko and eight others [who were arrested in July 2002] as well as Mr. Gopal, who was arrested in April this year.

When journalists asked Mr. Justice Saharya specifically whether the committee had prima facie concluded that POTA had been misused in the case of Mr. Vaiko and Mr. Gopal, he said, "I leave it to you. Draw your own inference". Mr. Justice Saharya said: "We have asked the State Government to show cause on or before December 2 whether it was fit and proper to apply POTA in these two First Information Reports [Mr. Vaiko and eight others in one FIR and Mr. Gopal in another]. We have also asked them to produce all the relevant records [from the stage of registration of case up to sanction for prosecution] in English along with the case diary."

Asked whether the Committee would proceed even without the State Government's response, he said "we want the State Government to avail itself of every available opportunity and we have made it clear in the notice itself that in case of default, the committee will go ahead to draw its conclusion".

Reacting to this, the Chairman of the MDMK presidium, L. Ganesan, told reporters that the "issue of notice whether it [Mr. Vaiko] is a fit case for applying POTA itself is a significant development. We have won the first round of the battle. Having won the semi-final, we are confident of winning the final also." Asked whether the committee was delaying a decision, he said, "being a quasi-judicial forum, it has to follow certain procedures and we have to wait till the procedures were completed."

Explainig the deliberations, Mr. Justice Saharya said that "we discussed at length all the cases and, in particular, the cases of Mr. Vaiko, Mr. Gopal and others arrested in Tamil Nadu. All the materials collected by us were perused. The Tamil Nadu Government had submitted the relevant information in respect of Mr. Vaiko and Mr. Gopal. Since the case diary is very important, we have asked the Government to produce them."

Mr. Vaiko had challenged the validity of Sec. 21 (3) of POTA [under which he was arrested for supporting a banned organisation] in the Supreme Court, which has reserved orders, and these aspects were borne in mind by the committee, he said.

The committee is now vested with powers to go into the root of the matter and decide whether invocation of POTA in their cases is warranted or not and then give its finding which will be binding on the enforcement authorities, viz., the Centre, the State and the police.

"For us, all the cases are equally important," Mr. Justice Saharya said. "The Committee expresses concern and appreciates the emotions and sentiments of each person in prison under POTA."

It had also sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh Government on complaints regarding the arrest of Raja Bhaiya under POTA and its response was awaited.

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