New Delhi: India’s most wanted Masood Azhar. Masood, Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim are likely to be the first individual to be designated as terrorists once the Parliament passes the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, government officials said on Friday.
According to sources, although the demand to amend the UAPA act (that so far only proscribes organisations) has been around for a decade, the government redoubled its efforts since the issue of Masood Azhar’s blacklisting was raised in the United Nations Security Council earlier this year.
"It is a global legal norm now to proscribe individuals as terrorists under domestic law. Prior to Masood Azhar’s blacklisting, China had asked India how it was demanding that Azhar be designated a terrorist when its own government hadn’t put a ban on him." a senior MHA official told CNN News18.
The Amended bill that was approved by the Lok Sabha on Thursday allows the Centre to designate an organisation or an individual as a terrorist if “it/he commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism”.
The Opposition leaders criticised the move citing fears of misuse, which home minister Amit Shah rejected during a debate in the Lok Sabha.
Home Ministry officials also dismissed these apprehensions of misuse. "If there is no clear evidence, there is no question of anyone getting designated as terrorists," a senior official told CNN News18. He added that the act provides for checks and balances
"The evidence is checked at various levels. It is first checked by security agencies that first generate input. The evidence is further corroborated by a second security agency following which it is examined by officials at several levels in the Ministry. It is finally sent for the Minister’s approval," the official said.
Individuals designated as a terrorist can appeal to the Union Home Secretary, who will then have 45 days to decide on the appeal.
Additionally, a review committee headed by a sitting or retired judge along with at least two retired secretaries from the government can also be approached to appeal against the decision if an individual is designated a terrorist.
In the last 15 years, 42 organizations have been banned and the MHA claimed a certain Deendar-e-Anjuman had previously challenged a government order before the review committee.
"The committee ruled in favour of the government’s decision to ban and the organisation did not challenge it judicially. If our systems were robust for banning organisations, there is no reason to believe that they won't be robust for banning individuals," the official said.
The UAPA Amendment Bill is yet to receive the Rajya Sabha’s nod but the government hopes to pass the bill in the extended session of parliament.