Sweeping Powers to Check ‘Disruptive Activities’

New Delhi — The Indian legislature, responding to a wave of extremist bombings, Monday approved the death penalty for terrorist killings and life sentences for broadly defined ‘‘disruptive activity.”

Police announced the arrest of seven more suspects in the May 10-11 bombings, believed to be the work of Sikhs who are waging a peaceful campaign for autonomy in northern Punjab state.

The 30 bombings killed 82 people in northern India more than half of them in New Delhi. Following the attacks, more than 1,000 people were detained by police.

Police said the seven suspects included key individuals in the plot. Police said last week they had ‘‘solved’’ the case with the arrest of three Sikh extremists.

In Parliament, the “Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Bill’’ was passed on a voice vote.

The law imposes the penalty of death by hanging for any terrorist activity causing loss of life.

“Disruptive activity,” which could include the production of separatist literature or songs, was made punishable by three years to life imprisonment.

The bill also allows security forces to invade and destroy buildings believed to harbor terrorists, giving legal sanction to such actions as the army’s storming of the Golden Temple of Amritsar the Sikh religions holiest shrine to flush out extremists in June, 1984.

That assault infuriated the Sikh community and triggered the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two revenge seeking Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31.

Sikhism was founded in the 16th century as a mystical, monotheistic alternative to Hinduism and Islam but developed a militaristic tradition as Sikhs registered the Moslem Mogul rulers of 17thcentury India.

Some members of Parliament expressed concern about the definition of ‘disruptive activities” and the powers given to the central government to deal with law and order problems normally handled by the state.

B. Sidnal, a member of the ruling Congress (I) Party said the definition of “‘disruptive activities”’ should be made more scientific to ensure that innocent people are not victimized, the Press Trust of India reported.

Amal Datta of the Communist Party of India said the central government was using the bill to encroach on state powers and that it could be misused against the ruling party’s political opponents.

A civil rights leader labeled the bill ‘‘antidemocratic’? And said it was likely to fuel separatist sentiment in Punjab.

“The definition (of disruptive activities) is so broad it is liable to be abused,” said V. M. Tarkunde, former president of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties.

Home Minister S. B. Chavan told Parliament the police force also needed new equipment and training to cope with terrorism.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 24, 1985