By – Madhukar Gupta :A secure and safe environment is of utmost importance in ensuring the development of any society. From time to time, terrorist elements have tried to disrupt peace in various parts of our country through incidents of violence. Such incidents have led to loss of innocent lives and destruction of public and private property.
Recognising the paramount need for a safe and secure internal security environment, the Government has been taking measures to check disruptive activities of the terrorist elements. In November last year, the nation was jolted by the dastardly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country. The attacks not only created heightened awareness among people against terrorism, but also underlined the urgent need for further strengthening of the security apparatus in a result-oriented manner.
The Union Minister for Home Affairs outlined the agenda to deal with the terrorist threat, when at the recent Conference of Chief Ministers on internal security held in New Delhi, he set two goals for the nation- the first, to raise the level of preparedness to meet the increasingly sophisticated terrorist threat and second, to enhance the speed and decisiveness of the response to a terrorist threat or a terrorist attack. The Central Government has taken a series of measures since the Mumbai incidents to achieve the twin goals.
Multi Agency Centre
Multi Agency Centre (MAC), created in 2001 to deal with all intelligence matters pertaining to terrorism has been re-established and empowered. Since January 1, 2009, the Centre has begun to function on a 24×7 basis and is now legally obliged to share intelligence with all other agencies including agencies of the Governments of the States and Union Territories. Likewise, all other agencies are obliged to share intelligence with MAC. There has been a distinct improvement in the gathering and sharing of intelligence relating to terrorism. Subsidiaries of MAC (SMAC) have also been established in many States. Action for providing dedicated connectivity between the Central and State levels has been initiated.
The National Investigation Agency Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act have been enacted. The Government has also issued the Central Industrial Security Force (Amendment) Ordinance.
National Investigation Agency Act, 2008
The Act provides for setting up of a National Investigation Agency (NIA) which will operate within the framework of the concurrent jurisdiction of the Constitution and take up cases which have inter-State or international linkages or other cases with ramifications for national security, etc. It also provides for setting up of special courts. The NIA has been constituted and Shri R.V. Raju has been appointed as its Director General.
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008
The legislation has amended certain provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1976 with a view to strengthening the law for dealing with terrorism. Some of the highlights are as follows.
? The period prescribed in the Criminal procedure Code (Cr. PC) for detention (remand) during the period of investigation has been extended from ‘15’ , ‘60’ and ‘90’ days in respect of different types of cases to ‘30’, ‘90’ and ‘90’ days.
? Where it has not been possible to complete investigations in 90 days, and the court is satisfied with the report of the public prosecutor, a provision has been made to enable the period to be extended to 180 days.
? No court shall grant bail under the Act without giving an opportunity of being heard to the public prosecutor.
? In cases, where the court is satisfied, after perusal of the case diary or the Charge Sheet/Report under section 173 of the Cr. PC, that the accusations made against the accused are, prima-facie true, the court shall not grant bail.
? In certain circumstances, where it is proved that weapons and explosives, etc. were recovered from the possession of the accused and such weapons were used in the commission of the offence; or finger-prints of the accused were found on weapons, vehicles, etc. used in the commission of the offence or any other definitive evidence was found in this regard, the court shall draw a rebuttable adverse presumption unless proved to the contrary.
? Provision has also been made for empowering an officer of a designated agency with powers of arrest, search and seizure wherever he may have knowledge or information that a particular person has committed an offence or has designs to commit an offence under this Act, or that any document or property which could give evidence in respect of the commission of an offence under this Act, or any property which is liable to seizure under the provisions of this Act is kept or concealed in any building, vehicle, vessel, etc. It has also been provided that wherever any such arrest or seizure takes place, the person or the articles/documents so seized shall, without delay, be deposited with the nearest police station which would take action thereon as per the provisions of the law.
? The definition of terrorist act has been elaborated and several additional specific offences have been provided keeping in view the recommendations of the ARC and the requirements flowing from various international Conventions, etc. regarding terrorism, including recruitment, training for and financing of terrorism.
Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008
It provides, among other things, a comprehensive scheme for compensation to victims to be framed by State Governments, provision for police officers to record reasons before making arrest in offences for which penalty is up to seven years of imprisonment, making adjournment of cases more difficult with the aim of speedy trials, enabling provision for recording of statements of the accused and witnesses by police through audio-video means and further continuation of the accused in judicial custody through video conferencing.
Central Industrial Security Force (Amendment) Ordinance, 2009
With the growing threat of terrorist outfits, the industries in the private sector and joint venture, which have contributed to the growth of economy, also require assurance of security. Therefore, the relevant sections of the CISF Act, 1968 have been amended to facilitate the deployment of CISF for security of private sector and joint venture enterprises on cost reimbursement basis. This will pave the way for deployment of CISF for the security of private and joint sector enterprises depending upon the threat perception.
Mumbai terror attacks have brought into focus the need to secure the nation’s coastline. A Coastal Security Scheme was formulated and approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in January, 2005 for implementation over 5 years with non-recurring outlay of Rs.400 crore and recurring outlay of Rs.151 crore for expenditure on fuel, maintenance and repair of vessels and training of personnel. Under the Coastal Security Scheme, 73 coastal police stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 operational barracks have been approved. The Police Stations will be provided with 204 patrol boats fitted with modern navigational and maritime equipment. 153 jeeps and 312 motorcycles have also been approved. A lump sum assistance of Rs. 10 lakh per police station has been provisioned for computers and equipment, etc.
A number of high-level review meetings have been held recently with the concerned States and ministries/agencies to identify the gaps and take necessary steps to further strengthen coastal security. These, inter alia, include mandatory registration of fishing and other vessels, issue of identity cards to fishermen and installation of vessel tracking and monitoring systems.
The Central Government proposes to set up hubs of the National Security Guard in different parts of the country. To begin with, hubs will be set up in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. Some other cities will be covered by a trained anti-terrorist force provided by defence forces. For example, Bengaluru will be covered by special units of Army. State Governments have been asked to complement this effort by raising and deploying their own anti-terrorist forces. The Central Government will help the States in raising and training such forces. Towards this end, work is in progress to set up 20 counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism schools in different parts of the country for training the commando units of the State Police forces.
The Government is in the process of taking more measures to increase the level of preparedness and improve response to meet the challenge of terrorism. However, all these measures can have the desired impact only when the menace is fought unitedly. State Governments, civil society organizations and people at large have to join hands to ensure that terrorists are not able to succeed in their evil designs. The all-round anguish caused by the Mumbai attacks must be used to forge a united and effective front against terrorism.