New Delhi — The extraordinary powers bestowed on the Army, police and courts have resulted in alienating the people, breeding resentment and creating discontent in Punjab opines report of the people’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) which conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the black laws in Punjab. Talking to reporters on Monday, the PUDR president, Mr. Gobind Mukhoty, said that in the past two years Punjab has been subjected to many new laws including the Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, Chandigarh Disturbed Areas Act, National Security Amendment Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Act and Terrorist Affected Areas (Special Courts) Act. The extraordinary powers of the acts have resulted in bypassing of all safeguards incorporated in the ordinary criminal law to ensure a fair trial and legal justice. The dangerous aspect of the acts was that even an innocent person nabbed under these special powers has to prove that he is not guilty. PUDR also condemned the Anti-Terrorist Act, which is a permanent part of the statute book. The definition of “terrorist’’ is wide enough to include just about anyone and a person committing any offense in the schedule can be tried in a special court. In the special courts the alleged culprits do not have a proper chance of defending themselves as the names of defense witnesses are not disclosed. According to the PUDR report the special courts violate articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution by keeping the accused in jail for long periods, presuming on their guilt, not distinguishing between classes of offenders like terrorists or ordinary criminals, denying anticipatory bail and keeping witnesses anonymous and by having in camera trials. The new laws are making Sikhs feel they are second class citizens which is detrimental to the unity of the country. Terrorism is a myth through which the entire community is being put to task. By blocking all channels of legitimate protest and dissent, the laws are throttling those very forces of democratic and secular opinion which can best combat communalism and help restore normalcy says the report. The evidence documented on the report relates to incidents following Operation Bluestar. A large number of women and children were indiscriminately rounded up from both the Golden Temple complex as well as rural areas. While some of the arrested were released others were transferred to various special courts. The information collected by the fact-finding team points to use of torture, fabrication of evidence and harassment of families to settle personal scores, according to the report.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1985