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Plea to reconsider clemency

Staff Correspondent

Bitta to lead delegation of families of victims of terrorist violence

CHANDIGARH: The chairman of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF), M.S. Bitta, would lead a delegation of victims of terrorist violence on November 8 to submit a memorandum to the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in support of continuing capital punishment for dreaded terrorists and hardened criminals.

Talking to reporters here on Saturday, Mr. Bitta said that the delegation would also appeal to the President to reconsider granting clemency to those terrorists, who had been condemned to the gallows by the Supreme Court.

He argued that any relief to the terrorists and hardened criminals, who in cold blood exhibited their lack of respect for human lives, would amount to denying justice and reversing the process of catharsis for the hundreds of family members of the victims, whose life had been reduced to a saga of prolonged agony.

`Victims' rights being ignored'

Mr. Bitta said that victims of violence from all over the country would reach Delhi on Monday. They would include families of those killed allegedly by top terrorists like Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, Daljit Singh Bittu, LTTE and Veerappan. He said that amid the din for political rhetoric to grant "another chance'' to the terrorists, the plight and rights of the victims were being ignored.

Responding to a question, Mr. Bitta favoured an amendment in the procedure adopted for deciding the matter of granting presidential pardon to condemned prisoners.

He was opposed to the mercy plea being referred back to the Home and Law ministries, where leaders and bureaucrats, made recommendations as per the political exigency.

He said in the rarest of rare cases, the President may consider clemency and in such instances the matter be decided by the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Supreme Court only.

Announcing that AIATF would observe December 13, as the "Anti-Terrorism Day'', Mr. Bitta said that while drafting the new legislation to counter terrorism, the Union Government should also consider devising methods to punish politicians, police officers and other bureaucrats found guilty of exploiting difficult situations and adopting double standards for personal gains.

To meet U.S. ambassador

Mr. Bitta said that the AIATF had sought an appointment with the US Ambassador, to take up the recent study by some American physicians, who have reportedly analysed the psychological condition of families of victims of state repression. He took exception that 189 families were interviewed in 10 days, without the knowledge of the Indian authorities or media.

Mr. Bitta said that the team, which is believed to have visited the border areas of Punjab at the instance of the Committee for Information and Initiative in Punjab (CIIP), submitted it report to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He said that the action was a direct interference in the internal matters of India.

Expressing serious doubts over the validity of the travel documents of the six-member team, Mr. Bitta said these American physicians had spared time and effort to contact those who were suspected to have supproted the terrorists, but completely ignored the victims of terrorist violence.

He said while India was partner in the international effort, there could not be separate yardsticks to carry out the "global war against terror''.

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