Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002

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Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2016
Emblem of India.svg
Parliament of India

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Territorial extent
Enacted by

Joint session of Parliament


26 March 2002

Assented to

28 March 2002[1]


21 September 2004

Status: Repealed

Template:Campaignbox India terrorism

The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) was an Act passed by the Parliament of India in 2002, with the objective of strengthening anti-terrorism operations. The Act was enacted due to several terrorist attacks that were being carried out in India and especially in response to the attack on the Parliament. The Act replaced the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) of 2001 and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) (1985–95), and was supported by the governing National Democratic Alliance. The Act was repealed in 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance coalition.

The bill was defeated in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) by a 113-98 vote,[3] but was passed in a joint session (425 Ayes and 296 Nos), as the Lok Sabha (lower house) has more seats. It was only the third time that a bill was passed by a joint session of both houses of Parliament.[4][5][6]

The Act defined what constituted a "terrorist act" and who a "terrorist" was, and granted special powers to the investigating authorities described under the Act. In order to ensure that discretionary powers granted to the investigating agencies were not misused and human rights violations were not committed, specific safeguards were built into the Act.[7]

Provisions similar to TADA

Analogous to the provisions contained in TADA, the law provided that a suspect could be detained for up to 180 days without the filing of chargesheet in court. It also allowed law enforcement agencies to withhold the identities of witnesses, and to treat confessions made to the police admissible in evidence. Under the provisions of criminal law in India, a person could deny such confessions, in court, but not under POTA.[8] However the law did have some safeguards. Any decision on bail petitions or the verdict of the special courts constituted under this Act could be appealed from, to a division bench of the High Court having jurisdiction. Also unlike TADA, it had no provision to allow preventive detention.[9]

Review committee

The provisions in the Act mentioned the possibility of both state and central review committees, but offered few details as to their formation or use. As the Act began to be widely misused by the state governments, the central government finally established a review committee to hear individual cases related to this Act. At first, the committee functioned in a purely advisory capacity.

In December 2003, by an overwhelming majority, India’s legislature amended the Act with an ordinance designed to expand the scope of judicial review.[9] The new ordinance gave review commissions the authority to review the prima facie case of an "aggrieved person" and issue orders binding on the state government and police. Though the amendment was an improvement on the purely advisory capacity of the initial review committee because it enhanced the power of judicial review, the central review committee remained largely impotent, as it could not initiate an investigation absent an initial complaint and lacked clearly delineated investigatory powers. Moreover, the review committee’s resources were limited, and it operated under no regulated time-frame. Without sufficient autonomy, resources, or guidelines, the committee was an illusory safeguard.[9]

Given the review committee’s limitations, only the grievances of those persons with political connections to the central government were likely to be heard. Further, even with political pressure from the central government and a favorable advisory opinion by the review committee, Tamil Nadu detained Vaiko for over four months without charge, and an additional fourteen months after charging him before granting bail.

Impact and repeal

Once the Act came into force, many reports surfaced of the law being grossly abused.[10] POTA was alleged to have been arbitrarily used to target political opponents. Only four months after its enactment, state law enforcement officers had arrested 250 people nationwide under the Act, and the number was steadily increasing. A mere eight months later, seven states where POTA was in force, had arrested over 940 people, at least 560 of whom were languishing in jail. Several prominent persons like Vaiko were arrested under the act.[11]

On 7 October 2004, the Union Cabinet under UPA government approved the repeal of the act.[12] The act was repealed by passing Prevention of Terrorism (Repeal) Act, 2004. NDA asked UPA to introduce the Act again, but Congress criticized it and did not pass the Act.[13]

Prominent POTA cases

See also


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named POTA 2002 - long title, etc
  2. "POTA (amendment) Act 2003". Retrieved 31 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "It's Not POTA. Yet". 21 March 2002. Retrieved 28 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "POT Bill passed by joint session of Parliament". 26 March 2002. Retrieved 31 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "President summons joint sitting of Parliament". The Economic Times. PTI. 22 March 2002. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "782 MPs await novel joint session". The Economic Times. TNN. 23 March 2002. Retrieved 31 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Press Information Bureau Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 Retrieved on 30 June 2008
  8. Its goodbye to POTA Retrieved on 10 July 2007
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Kalhan, Anil; et al. (2006). "Colonial Continuities: Human Rights, Antiterrorism, and Security Laws in India". 20 Colum. J. Asian L. 93. SSRN 970503. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "SP condemns Vaiko's arrest under Pota". The Times Of India. 13 July 2002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples Appeal Updates Script error: No such module "webarchive". Retrieved 9 July 2007
  13. "UPA faulted by repealing POTA". Times of India. Retrieved 19 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. " TN police arrests MDMK leader Vaiko".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Frontline Targeting Geelani Retrieved on 7 July 2007
  16. "POTA pins down Geelani".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "The Arrest Of Syed Ali Shah Geelani - Jun 10,2002".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "BJP demands revocation of Pota on Raghuraj Singh". The Times Of India. 28 January 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "POTA slapped on Raja Bhaiya, Akshay Pratap Singh".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links