India and the LTTE

Print edition : January 31, 2003

MARKING a victory for Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy's consistent stand against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Central government has submitted before the Madras High Court that there was "no participation by India" in the arrangement or management of the Sri Lanka Peace Support Conference of Donors held in Oslo on November 25, 2002. The government also stated that the terms of Section 21 (2) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) were "not attracted to such cases when a low level diplomat of India attended the opening ceremony only". About a hundred delegates from 39 countries took part in the conference, at which representatives of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE were present.

The Centre's submission came on a public interest petition filed by Subramanian Swamy, praying for a direction to the government restraining it from participating in any meeting in which there was involvement by the LTTE, declared a terrorist organisation under Section 18 of POTA and banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The government stated in its counter-affidavit that it had initially decided not to participate in the conference. However, the invitation having come from the Norwegian government to the diplomatic corps, the First Secretary of the Indian Embassy in Oslo was present at the opening ceremony. "The diplomat... did not interact with any other person and made his formal attendance at the opening ceremony only. There was no further participation," the counter-affidavit stated. It added that "the conference was convened by the Norwegian government, and arranged and managed by them with no participation of India in the arrangement or management... ''

Subramanian Swamy had pointed to newspaper reports that the government had asked one of its diplomats to attend the conference. Under Section 21 (1) (a) of POTA, a person commits an offence if "he invites support for a terrorist organisation". Further, Section 21 (2) states: "A person commits an offence if he arranges, manages or assists in arranging or managing a meeting which he knows is (a) to support a terrorist organisation, or (b) to further the activities of the terrorist organisation, or (c) to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a terrorist organisation." On the matter of fund-raising for a terrorist organisation, Section 22 (1) states that a person commits an offence if he ``(a) invites another to provide money or other property, and (b) intends that it should be used, or has reasonable cause to suspect that it may be used, for the purpose of terrorism."

Subramanian Swamy argued that if the government had taken part in the conference, it would amount to assisting in arranging it. The Supreme Court had held that the LTTE was responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The Centre had taken steps to have LTTE leaders V. Prabakaran and Pottu Amman, accused in the assassination case, extradited to India to face trial. Subramanian Swamy prayed for a direction to bar the government from deputing any of "its officials or diplomats to participate in any national or international meeting to which the LTTE is a party''.

The government agreed that the LTTE was a banned organisation and stated that it had sought Prabakaran's extradition. Colombo's response to the request was that the legal process would first have to be completed in Sri Lanka. There was no question of any of the provisions of POTA being applicable in this instance, the government stated. The Norwegian government had convened, arranged and managed the conference.

In view of the government's submission, the First Bench comprising Chief Justice B. Subhashan Reddy and Justice C. Nagappan dismissed the petition.

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