Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arun Jaitley's legal, liberal view as expressed in Rajya Sabha on Dec 18

There are times when some of the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) speak reassuringly in liberal language, and make it clear that not in all the right-wing parties belong to the authoritarian, fascist mould. The untiring ideological enemies of the BJP refuse to see the saner elements in the party. For them, BJP is evil, plain and simple, in all ways and at all times. But the large majority of people are willing to judge the BJP on merit.
Arun Jaitley spoke for his party in the debate on the bills on National Investigative Agency (NIA) and amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. He made the valid point that the UPA which had consistently denied that there was no need for tougher laws to fight terrorism has come round to the view that there is indeed a need for tough clauses. One of the amendments to the UAPA was the detention period without bail has been extended from 90 days to 180 days.
Jaitley was critical of the fact that the amendments did not include the provision for accepting the confession of the accused to the police as admissible evidence in court. And it was here that he spoke the language of a legal liberal. He said that he was against in principle for the admission of confession to the police as evidence in court. Not many right wing leaders would say that. But he said in extraordinary cases there is a need to take a tough stance, and allow confessions to be turned into evidence. He pointed out that TADA - the anti-terror law brought in by the Congress in the 1980s -- had the provision of turing confessions into evidence.
But he defended the provision and revealed the fairness principle still retained behind its apparently draconian face. He said that confessions have to be voluntary. They can only be recorded by a senior police officer, not the interrogator. And the judge will once again consult the accused on whether it is voluntary.
He scored some political brownie points when he said while the UPA government is still apologetic on bringing in the tough provisions, it was the opposition that was supporting it unstintingly.

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