Wednesday, December 17, 2008

India's Guantanamo (or Belmarsh)?

Lok Sabha has just passed the amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Although I have not seen the full text of the amending Bill, media reports indicate that it allows for indefinite detention of foreign suspects. If this is true, we might be in the process of creating our own version of the Guantanamo or Belmarsh prisons, and without any public debate. A similar law was declared by the House of Lords to be incompatible with the British Human Rights Act, 1998 in A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Belmarsh detainees case).

I hope this analysis is wrong and that the media reports (or my reading of them) have missed some crucial nuance in the Bill. Perhaps all it does is mandatorily denies bail after a chargesheet has been filed (which is not great either), but retains the 180-days-detention-limit-without-charge for foreigners. Can anyone please clarify?

Update - The new Section 43D (8) added by the amending Bill states: Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-sections (6) and (7), no bail shall be granted to a person accused of an offence punishable under this Act, if he is not an Indian citizen and has entered the country unauthorisedly or illegally except invery exceptional circumstances and for reasons to be recorded in writing.

I think a person becomes an 'accused' only after a chargesheet is filed, so detention without charge should still be possible for 180 days only, even for foreigners.

[Hat tip to Dilip for posting the link]

Update 2 - The analysis in the first update above may be wrong. Please see the comment section.
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