New Delhi, Dec 29 (PTI): Tackling violence perpetrated by terror groups, close monitoring of activities of some NGOs and efforts to ameliorate the woes of persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were some of the key issues which dominated the agenda of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2022.
The ministry also initiated the process of complete overhaul of criminal laws, especially the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act 1872, and adapt them in accordance with the contemporary needs and aspirations of the people.
Action against Chinese-controlled predatory lending apps, which allegedly harass, blackmail and adopt harsh recovery practices and strict vigil along the international borders, some of them have seen “demographic changes”, also kept the MHA busy in the year.
One of the major steps that the MHA took in 2002 was declaring the Popular Front of India (PFI) and several of its associates banned for five years under the stringent anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, accusing them of having involved in terror acts and maintaining “links” with global terror groups like the ISIS.
There were reports that the PFI had also allegedly conspired to attack high court judges, senior police officers and foreign tourists, especially Jews visiting Vattakkanal, a tiny hill station in Tamil Nadu.
The MHA declared over a dozen individuals, including Hafiz Talha Saeed, the son of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, for their continuous role in carrying out terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said some countries repeatedly support terrorists and have made terrorism their state policy and “strict economic crackdown” should be launched against them.
Shah said this at an international meeting — “No Money for Terror Ministerial Conference” — held in New Delhi.
Separately, the home minister said 42,000 people lost their lives to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir over the years but the security situation has improved now to such an extent that no one dares to call a hartal or indulge in stone-pelting in the Union territory.
“A zero-tolerance policy has been adopted towards terrorism, ensuring complete control of the security forces over the situation,” he said.
Shah also alleged that some NGOs have indulged in religious conversion, anti-national activities and misuse of funds to stall the country’s economic progress, and strong action has been taken against such entities.
As part of the crackdown on some NGOs, the MHA cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licences given to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) – two NGOs headed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
The government accused that the RGF had received funds from the Chinese Embassy as well as Zakir Naik, who heads the Islamic Research Foundation which was declared as a banned organisation for its “involvement” in terrorism.
Since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, rules related to the FCRA have been tightened and it also cancelled FCRA registration of nearly 2,000 NGOs for violating various provisions of law. There were 22,762 FCRA-registered organisations till December-end 2021.
Giving relief to those who have faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the MHA empowered district magistrates of 31 districts and home secretaries of nine states to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, coming from these three countries, under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
The move to grant Indian citizenship to these communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and not under the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) bears significance.
The CAA also provides for granting Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, the rules under the CAA have not been framed by the government yet and hence no one so far could be granted Indian citizenship.
To allay the apprehension of some people, the MHA said in its annual report that the CAA is a “limited and narrowly tailored legislation” which seeks to provide a relaxation to specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date. “It is a compassionate and ameliorative legislation,” the report for 2020-21, published early this year, said.
The report said the CAA does not apply to Indian citizens and therefore it does not in any way take away or abridge the rights of any Indian citizen.
Further, the present legal process of acquiring Indian citizenship by any foreigner of any category as provided in the Citizenship Act, 1955 is very much operational and the CAA does not amend or alter this legal position in any manner whatsoever.
At a meeting in Kishanganj in Bihar in September, the home minister had said that the demographic changes taking place along the border areas are “very worrisome” and the security forces should stay alert.
“But the demographic changes taking place along border areas are very worrisome and the security forces should stay alert,” an official quoted Shah as saying at a meeting on security situation along the international border.
The MHA has also sought urgent strict action by law enforcement agencies against predatory lending apps as harassment, blackmail and harsh recovery practices by such Chinese-controlled entities have led to multiple incidents of suicides.
In a communication to all states and Union territories, the home ministry had said the issue has caused a serious impact on national security, economy and citizen safety.
It said a large number of complaints have been reported across India related to illegal digital lending apps that provide short-term loans or micro-credits at exorbitant interest rates with processing or hidden charges, especially to vulnerable and low-income group people.
The lenders use the borrowers’ confidential personal data like contacts, location, photos and videos for blackmail and harassment.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Shah has sought suggestions from the MPs and other stakeholders to the proposed move of amendments in the IPC, CrPC and Indian Evidence Act.
In a letter to the MPs, Chief Justice of India, chief justices of high courts, chief ministers of states, administrators of Union territories, bar councils and law universities, Shah said that the experience of seven decades of Indian democracy calls for comprehensive review of the criminal laws, especially the IPC 1860, the CrPC 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act 1872 and adapt them in accordance with the contemporary needs and aspirations of the people.
“The government of India intends to create a people-centric legal structure,” he wrote.
Shah said the central government under the leadership of Modi, with its mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas,’ is committed to ensure speedy justice to all the citizens of India, especially those belonging to the weaker and backward sections.