24/09/2015 12:12 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Modi Government Okays Gujarat Anti-Terror Bill

Convicted Indians wave to their families from inside a police vehicle as they are taken away after the pronouncement of sentence at a district court in Anand, about 75 kilometer (47 miles) from Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, April 12, 2012. A court in India has sentenced 18 Hindus to life imprisonment for killing 23 Muslims during religious riots in western India a decade ago. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in communal violence that erupted in Gujarat after 60 Hindus were killed in a train fire. The Gujarat riots were one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in India in the past few decades. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

NEW DELHI -- Despite grave concerns about its misuse and human rights violations, the Modi government has approved the controversial Gujarat anti-terror bill.

The Economic Times reported today that the Home Ministry has sent the anti-terror bill to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent before it becomes law. It was passed by BJP lawmakers in Gujarat in March.

The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2015 allows for phone conversations intercepted by the police, and confessions made to senior police officers, to be submitted as evidence in court. Activists fear that such provisions are easily abused by the authorities. They are especially concerned about the police using brute force to beat confessions from suspects.

All offences under this bill are non-bailable. Furthermore, the bill increases the police investigation time from 90 days to 180 days during which the suspect languishes in custody.

Section 25 of the Bill makes the government immune from any legal action for "anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act."

The bill, previously called the Gujarat Control of Organised Bill, was introduced in 2003 by then chief minister Narendra Modi, now prime minister. It was first rejected by President APJ Abdul Kalam in 2004 during the NDA government and then by President Pratibha Patil, when the UPA government was in power.

Human rights activists also question the need for states to continue piling on Acts when central laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the National Investigation Agency Act, armed with similar draconian provisions, already exist. Other state laws include the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999, Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which covers the NorthEast and the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where insurgency continues.

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