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Demand to scrap MPDA re-surfaces

Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act completes two decades; Rs 29 lakh spent on Advisory Board

SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act, which was promulgated in 1995, has completed 20 years of existence and altogether 306 MPDA cases have been slapped on various individuals in the past two decades.
There were times in the State when MPDA was slapped on persons who had agitated against the implementation of high security number plates and other similar cases.
Official documents revealed that the duration of detention when the Act was first promulgated on May 12, 1995, was one year, but on July 30, 2003, the Act was amended and the duration was extended to three years.
Documents available with The Shillong Times said that as many as 225 militants in the State have been put under MPDA while 79 criminals were also placed under MPDA.
Though the official statement highlights that only one NGO leader and a woman were detained under the MPDA, there were several including leaders of pressure groups who were arrested under MPDA.
The documents also said that two persons – identified as Rahul Marak and Anthony Marak – were booked under MPDA two times.
Moreover, till date over Rs.29 lakh (Rs.29,08,854) has been paid to the Advisory Board which is  mandated to confirm and review the MPDA cases. While the Chairman of the Board is paid Rs.5000 per sitting, two members are paid Rs.4000 each.
The implementation of MPDA had hit hurdles following a case taken up by the High Court of Meghalaya.
Sources said that after the High Court had last year stayed the functioning of the Advisory Board since it is headed by a retired Judge from Assam which was constituted when there was only the Shillong Bench of the Gauhati High Court, the State government could not take up MPDA cases and many who were  under detention were released.
After the State government challenged the stay in the Supreme Court, the stay was vacated and on December 19 last, a hearing of the Advisory Board was held to confirm a fresh MPDA case.
Earlier, the High Court of Meghalaya had questioned the manner in which some persons including GNLA leader Champion Sangma were booked under MPDA prior to the 2013 Assembly polls, and had pulled up East Garo Hills and West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioners by stating that proper procedures were not followed before detention.
There are varied views on MPDA which is currently in use with an aim to deter crimes.
An official with the Political department said that MPDA is a device for preventing a person from committing further crimes, which is prejudicial to the security of the State.
However, critics of the Act have pointed out that there have been several instances where people who were placed under MPDA continued to commit crimes after their release thereby making the detention ineffective.
A city based lawyer dealing with criminal matters said that the period of detention should not be three years. He pointed that even the detention period under National Security Act is just 12 months.
The process of detention as per MPDA is that the detention order is first made by the district magistrate following which the Political department approves the same within 12 days and communicates to the magistrate the approval of detention by the government.
Subsequently, within a period of 21 days, the State government has to refer the case to the Advisory Board which will in turn communicate the decision within 49 days.
After getting the written opinion from the Board, the confirmation of detention for three years is issued in the name of the Governor as per the provisions of MPDA Acts of 1995 and 2003.
However, during the detention period, if a representation is received, the government  will have to dispose of the matter at the earliest.
When contacted, Augustine Shanpru, who was booked under the MPDA while protesting against the implementation of High Security Registration Plate (HSRP) in the State, termed MPDA as draconian and urged the government to revoke the Act.
“I had not done anything wrong by protesting against implementation of HSRP, but I was booked under MPDA in this very small case compared to others who indulge in serious criminal cases,” he said.
TUR member Angela Rangad termed MPDA as anti people and said the Act is an excuse for the government to quell the dissenting voice of the people.
“IF POTA and TADA can be repealed, why not MPDA?” Rangad questioned, adding that instead of booking people under MPDA, the government should take the case to its logical end by proper criminal investigation.
“Government should have pursued investigation into the incident where a tea shop owner was burnt during ILP agitations and find out the perpetrators instead of booking people under the Act,” she said while expressing her reservations on the continuation of the Act.
Sadon Blah, general secretary, Hynniewtrep National Youth Federation (HNYF) and lecturer of Seng Khasi College, while commenting on the MPDA said, “It is not a question of revoking or continuing the MPDA but it depends on the way the government uses it.”
He added that under the Act persons are arrested merely on the basis of suspicion.
According to Blah, people who are booked under the Act very often escape detention if they have links with ‘proper channels’.

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