This article has been written by Plash Mittal. Plash is a student of BCom LLB at University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
The newspaper on Wednesday read a broad headline, “Guj govt to table internal security law that allows arrest on suspicion” and it seemed to be evident that the Government of Gujarat fears a Zombie Apocalypse occurring in the state. The Maharashtra Government has already put forth the MPISA, 2016 on September 17.
Meanwhile, in Gujarat, the harsh Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill-2015 is yet to be approved by the President which allows the police to tap private phones, make confessions before police admissible as evidence and extend time given for filing of charge sheet from 90 to 180 days, the Vijay Rupani Government is already planning another draconian law i.e. the Gujarat Protection of Internal Security Act (GPISA) in a move to empower the local police to nab persons on the basis of suspicion.
According to GPISA, internal security is threatened by “proxies of a hostile foreign power” within the state’s borders. Thus, the bill allows “protection of action taken in good faith” which means that no prosecution or other legal proceedings can be initiated against any person on or even the state for anything that was done in `good faith’. The bill deals with “internal security challenges posed by terrorism, insurgency, communalism and even caste violence”. Both public and private institutions can be put under electronic surveillance and covered by CCTV.
Punishment, if proven guilty of helping or possessing substances intended to harm internal security, can be imprisonment for life, fine or both and the offences punishable under this act shall be cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and can be tried by a sessions court. The internal security committee will oversee the functioning consisting of the Chief Minister, State Home Minister as Chairman.
The MPISA, 2016
The newly drafted Maharashtra Protection of Internal Security Act (MPISA) has proposed setting up of Special Security Zones (SSZ) where movement of arms, explosives and inflow of unaccounted funds will be prohibited. Once enacted, the proposed legislation would be the first such state-level act for internal security which will give more power to the police department if implemented.
The MPISA, 2016, defines Critical Infrastructure Sectors (CIS), and brings nuclear reactors, dams, major projects, coastal areas under its ambit, with an emphasis on maintaining law and order and combating terrorism, insurgency, caste-related violence and communalism. The draft has a provision for a jail term of up to three years and fine for those threatening the State’s security. It speaks on the medical and insurance benefits to be awarded to the victims.
The act has clearly defined the SSZs as having a separate police infrastructure. The zones will also have a command and control system, and separate Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to be followed by the SSZ police. The police chief will have powers to ban or regulate the “production, sale, storage, possession, or entry of any devices or equipment or poisonous chemical, biological or radioactive article or substances, or electronic content of potentially explosive nature or any inflow of funds.” The act has provisions to control by way of CCTV cameras access points to important establishments. The act requires every public establishment and government office to carry out the security audit of its premises and every owner of the premises of the public establishment to save video footage of public activities for a period of 30 days.
For overseeing and reviewing the implementation of the Act, there would be a ‘state internal security committee’ with Home Minister as ex-officio Chairman, and include Minister of State (Home) and the Chief Secretary. The act recommends that ‘internal security’ be made part of curriculum in schools and colleges to make youth aware of the possible threats.
Earlier, Maharashtra helped the state, combat underworld dons and terror groups through the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999. MCOCA, with stringent provisions, came down heavily on those associated with organized crime syndicate and terror.
The United States, way back in 1950, passed the McCarran Internal Security Act, 1950; to protect the United States against certain un-American and subversive activities by requiring registration of Communist organizations, and for other purposes. Also, The National Security Act of 1980 was passed during the Charan Singh Government on 23 September, 1980 in India “to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith”. The act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India. The act also gives power to the governments to detain a foreigner in a view to regulate his presence or expel from the country.
The National Security Act along with other laws allowing preventive detention has come under wide criticism for their alleged misuse. The act’s constitutional validity even during peacetime has been described by some sections as an anachronism. Even the Shiv Sena has severely criticized BJP-led Maharashtra government’s draft for an internal security Act, saying it throttles democracy and individual liberty. They believe that Maharashtra will be ruled by the police instead of being governed by law. People will have to keep going to the police for permissions even for events such as weddings, naming ceremonies, lunches and dinners. People will have to seek the government’s permission even to be able to breathe freely. This is worse than the extremism of even the India Gandhi government in 1975.