New Delhi: Under the newly proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, there are no procedural safeguards against false implication in terrorism-related cases, including even those present under anti-terror laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), lawyer M.S. Khan told The Hindu.
“All safeguards have been bypassed in the new law. Now any police officer can register a first information report (FIR) against anyone saying the person is a terrorist. These kinds of offences are not general offences, otherwise, they would have been incorporated in the general law earlier,” said Khan, who specialises in terror-related cases.
The new Bill – which is set to replace the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) – defines terrorism as a separate offence for the first time as part of a general law. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is a special law focused on terrorist activities.
In the case of the MCOCA and the UAPA, Khan says there are provisions that before an FIR is filed, there should be approval from a senior police officer. Secondly, the investigation into such cases can only be carried out by an officer of a particular rank. Third, there is a bar on the court in taking cognisance of such cases without government sanctions, he explains.
Such safeguards, he says, are missing in the proposed law. “If these safeguards are not there, the trial cannot proceed,” he added.
On the other hand, the new Bill considers causing “floods” as a terrorist act. Defining a “terrorist”, Section 111 (6) (a) of the Bill says any person who “develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transports, supplies or uses weapons, explosives, or releases nuclear, radiological or other dangerous substance, or cause fire, floods or explosions”. For offences defined under Section 111, the minimum punishment is five-year jail and the maximum punishment is a death sentence.
While it might appear strange that a disaster such as floods can be blamed on some individual and there is a need to enact a law to counter that, it may be recalled the BJP government in Assam has already set a precedent in prosecuting those behind “man-made” floods. Last year in August, the Assam Police arrested four Muslims after chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had accused them creating of “man-made” floods. Sarma had added that the embankment along the Barak River was breached by some people. Several social media users supportive of the Hindutva ideology accused members of the Muslim community of waging “flood jihad”.