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POTA will be scrapped before expiry: Venkatapathy

By Our Special Correspondent

CUDDALORE, JUNE 11. The Union Minister of State for Law, K. Venkatapathy, today said the validity of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was only for three years and it would expire by October this year. But, he insisted that the POTA would be ``scrapped'' even before its expiry.

The government was already armed with other Acts, which would effectively deal with terrorists and infiltrators. Emphasising that ``man's liberty was precious,'' Mr. Venkatapathy said in reply to a question on alternative legislation being worked out by some States, that they could pass law within their powers. It had become ``obvious'' that certain States, particularly Tamil Nadu, were ``misusing'' this legislation, he said.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr. Venkatapathy said when the POTA was passed the then Union Home Minister, L.K.Advani, had said that it would be used only against ``anti-nationals, infiltrators and terrorists.''

However, the Tamil Nadu Government had put the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, Vaiko, behind bars for 575 days by invoking the Act. Even after the Saharya panel stated that no prima facie case was made out against Mr. Vaiko, the case had not been withdrawn, and for going abroad Mr. Vaiko had to get the court's clearance.

On whether a national law commission will be set up, Mr. Venkatapathy said a decision was yet to be taken. As for reforms, he said when the idea was mooted lawyers got agitated. Since, this move was fraught with practical difficulties, the proposed reforms ought to be scrutinised.

As for the long pendancy of cases, he said besides regular courts, the Fast Track Courts and Lok Adalats were taking care of them. He attributed the delay in the disposal of cases to the existing procedures: i.e., in a single case any number of interlocutory applications (IAs) could be filed.

For instance, in the TANSI case as many as 116 interlocutory applications were filed, and added that he was citing this only as an example and not referring to any individual case.

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