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Govt. for consensus on anti-terrorism law

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JULY 13. The Union Home Ministry today sought to stress the need for bringing an anti-terrorism law to deal with the activities of terrorist organisations which have bases across the border and receive ideological indoctrination, funds, training and arms.

``It is the view of the Government that the normal criminal laws were not designed to deal with the activities of terrorist organisations which have bases across the border. Countries such as Britain and the U.S. which have faced the onslaught of international terrorism much less than India have comprehensive anti-terrorism laws with even stronger provisions,'' the Home Ministry's official spokesman said in a statement here.

Notwithstanding the eagerness of the Government to enact the anti-terrorism law, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had spoken against the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000 saying existing laws were sufficient to deal with ``any eventuality, including terrorism.''

While refusing to comment on the NHRC's views, the spokesman said the Government, ``holds the NHRC in high esteem.'' He said efforts were being made to evolve a consensus on the new law.

Pointing out that a consensus on the need for an anti- terrorism law had been evolved at a recent meeting of the Chief Secretaries and State police chiefs, he said the Ministry had circulated the draft of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000 among the States and Union Territories. Their comments were awaited.

The issue could also be included in the agenda for the Chief Ministers' conference scheduled for August 5 here. It would also be discussed at the meeting of the Consultative Committee of Parliament of the Ministry of Home Affairs, here on July 17. ``The Government would like to build a general consensus on this Bill through consultations with States and Union Territories and all political parties before presenting it in Parliament,'' the statement said.

The Home Ministry sought to allay the fears expressed in the press on stringent bail provisions and bringing journalists under the purview of the proposed law if they failed to disclose information relating to a terrorist crime.

``The factual position is that the burden of proving that a person has committed an offence under the Act shall entirely rest on the prosecution. However, the court can surely draw adverse inference against the accused if found in possession of unauthorised arms/explosives in a notified area, or found in possession of any proceeds of terrorism or if the accused fails to give samples of his handwriting, fingerprints, footprints, photograph, blood, saliva, semen, hair despite the direction of the court,'' it said.

On the allegation that journalists could be brought under the purview of the proposed Bill for failure to reveal the source of information, it said Article 14 of the Draft Bill ``which obliges any person to furnish information in his possession relating to a terrorist offence, is only a reiteration of the duty cast on every person by various provisions in the Indian Penal Code and the Cr.PC.''

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