New Delhi: India appended offences that threaten its economic security to its anti-terrorism act, the Rajya Sabha according sanction to the amending legislation Thursday but several parties walked out of the house, protesting various new provisions.
Passed by the Lok Sabha Nov 30, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill also extends the period of the ban on an organisation from two years to five years.
Members of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party were first to walk out, saying that the bill could be used against certain sections of society.
Objection was also raised by the Left parties, with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury drawing parallels with the POTA (Prevention of Terror Activities Act that now stands repealed.
"We repealed the POTA together... by bringing this bill, you are bringing back the provisions of POTA," Yechury said.
"It reverses logic of justice, a person will be considered guilty until proven innocent," he added.
In response, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh explained the bill only focused on including economic offences under the purview of anti-terror act.
An amendment was moved by CPI-M`s P. Rajeev, who contended these amendments will effect trade unions.
The motion was, however, rejected, following which the members of the Left, Janata Dal-United, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party walked out of the house, protesting the bill`s new provisions.
The bill was then passed by voice vote with the support of both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party members.
"This bill is religion neutral. None of the clauses are against any religion," R.P.N. Singh said.
"Terror is spread not only through arms but also by effecting the economy. This bill will check that," he said.
The bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, to make it more effective in preventing unlawful activities, and meet commitments made at the Financial Action Task Force (an inter-governmental organisation to combat money laundering and terrorism financing).
It expands the definition of `terrorist act` to include acts that threaten the economic security of India and damage its monetary stability by production, smuggling or circulation of "high quality" counterfeit currency. The security features that define "high quality" are laid down in its Third Schedule.
Under the act, if a person raises or provides funds, knowing that such funds are likely to be used to commit a terrorist act, he shall be punishable with imprisonment of not less than five years and a fine.