Tackling terror effectively

Once the British Parliament was against a deadline. The Judiciary had said certain foreign terrorists could not be held in prison any longer because the law was discriminatory as they were not able to hold British terrorists as well. Thus, there was a human rights violation. Parliament had to pass a new law within four weeks. Still, both Houses of Parliament went through all the stages of the passage—Second Reading, Committee, Report, Third Reading. Then at the final stage the two Houses had to reconcile the differences in their versions. This is called ping-pong as the Bill goes back and forth across the few hundred feet separating the two chambers. The House of Lords was unhappy about the Government's desire to hold the suspects for more than a week. Since time was running out, procedurally the Houses could not rise. So we had a 36-hour seating with many Lords, myself including, sleeping in the House of Lords library. From Thursday morning till Friday afternoon we sorted the Bill out after four rounds of ping pong. The House of Lords won its point and suspects had to be presented before a judge to get extension of detention before trial each extra week.

I am relating this story because I am mystified by the way in which the Indian Parliament can pass an important Bill in just two afternoon sessions, after 'Second Reading', i.e., general waffly speeches. There seems to be no detailed scrutiny and the Executive pretty much gets its way. Speed, however, is not a guarantee of effectiveness. The only time we suspended our procedures and passed an anti-terrorism bill in a single seating was after the bombing in Omagh in Northern Ireland which had killed 250 people. The Bill proved to be completely useless and indeed one of the retired Law Lords said as much during the passage of the Bill. The law just passed by the Indian Parliament is unlikely to survive a PIL which challenges its violation of human rights.

... contd.

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