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1 February 2016 Editorial

 

1 FEBRUARY

Gujarat must give up terror bill

Gujarat  should give up its persistent efforts to get  the controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2015, approved by the President. First moved by NarendraModi in 2003 when he was Chief Minister of the State, the Bill has been facing objections on the ground that it contains some draconian provisions. The Centre refused to clear the Bill three times when the United Progressive Alliance was in power. The Union Home Ministry has now recalled the Bill from the office of the President, to whom it had been sent for assent. The reason appears to be that it wants the Bill to be reworked based on additional inputs from the State government. The controversial nature of the GCTOC Bill became apparent after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as President objected to a clause that made evidence based on interception of communication admissible in court. His successor, PratibhaPatil, too declined assent. In March 2015, the Assembly passed the Bill and sent it afresh to the Centre for presidential assent. The Centre ultimately prevailed in having the clause that permitted the State Home Secretary to authorise the interception of telephone calls on his own dropped. Under the Indian Telegraph Act, State Home Secretaries do authorise telephone taps, but  using power delegated to them by the Centre. The watered-down Bill was sent last September to the President for his assent. It has been recalled now, possibly because of fears that President Pranab Mukherjee might refuse assent again.

India’s repeated experiments with anti-terrorism laws have been, by and large, unsuccessful. The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985, a law considered as draconian as the Rowlatt Act of the colonial era, and its latter-day version, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2003, had been allowed to lapse after it was found that they were prone to persistent misuse. However, with the substantive amendments made to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2012, the country does have an effective law to curb modern-day terrorism. The Gujarat law is modelled on the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, but that does not make it any more acceptable. The Maharashtra law itself has not achieved any remarkable success in curbing organised crime. When it was invoked recently in a cricket spot-fixing case in Delhi, it failed miserably during  trial, demonstrating how such laws can be reduced to a mockery through improper application. The GCTOC Bill also has provisions similar to earlier anti-terrorism laws, such as making confession to a police officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police admissible in court, and allowing 180 days, instead of the usual 90, for the filing of  a charge sheet. There is really no need for more State-level laws of such a nature. Police investigators need better resources and training to combat organised crime and terror, and not laws that abridge and modify conventional criminal procedure to the detriment of human rights.

Push for IMF reform

Finally, the International Monetary Fund has  made country quota reforms agreed by the G20 in 2010 a reality. One could imagine a collective, global sigh of relief as the chief objector to the  changes, the U.S. Congress, dropped its intransigence in December and allowed the multilateral lender to adopt a country quota distribution that better reflects the power balance of emerging markets in the global economy. With this structural shift, more than 6 percentage points of the quota, including both the Fund’s capital and its proportionate voting rights, have been transferred from developed to emerging economies. The greatest gains from the reforms accrue to the IMF itself, as the combined capital that its 188 member-countries contribute will increase to approximately $659 billion from nearly $329 billion. Other winners are India and China, who have respectively increased their voting shares by 0.292 and 2.265 percentage points. The emerging economies wrested a 2.6 percentage points increase. The developed nations have had a haircut in their  voting share,  somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points. Consequently, India, China, Brazil, and Russia will be among the 10 largest members alongside large advanced economies. As IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said, it is appropriate to “commend [the IMF] for ratifying these truly historic reforms”. But the reforms have come so late and after so much wrangling that, similar to its crisis-lending policies, they leave a bitter taste in the mouth.Back in May 2011, the Fund’s Executive Directors from the BRICS economies openly revolted against the prospect of the   position of Managing Director reverting to a European, deepening the woes of an organisation that had been rocked by the resignation of   Dominique Strauss-Kahn following sexual assault allegations. At the time,  ArvindVirmani,  Executive Director, from India, argued that the 2008 global financial crisis erupted in developed countries and its provenance “underscored the urgency of reforming international financial institutions so as to reflect the growing role of developing countries in the world economy”. Multi-year Republican Party obstructionism in the U.S. meant that the negotiations were dragged into the mud of dirty domestic politics, with some threatening to veto them unless President Barack Obama’s landmark health-care reform was repealed.  Law-makers relented only after years of persuasion made them realise that their inaction was hurting U.S. diplomacy. Even so, they extracted their pound of flesh, and the final reform plan  acquiesces to their demand to rescind the “systemic exemption” loophole, which allowed the Fund to lend to Greece in 2010. It is also a shame that BRICS nations had to launch their own bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, before the high priests of the Fund felt the need to modernise their quota structure. Despite all these push-factors, the process of governance restructuring at the IMF has not ended; it has only just begun.

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