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Ban on Popular Front of India

Context:

The central government has announced a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), the organisation whose leaders and offices were raided by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in states across the country.

  • Following these actions, which were based on allegations that members of the PFI are involved in organising terrorism camps and encouraging Muslim youth to join terror activities, it was widely expected that a ban on the organisation under anti-terrorism laws could follow.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Popular Front of India (PFI)?
  2. What does the ban notification say?
  3. What does the “ban” on the PFI mean?
  4. How is an “unlawful association” defined?
  5. What happens when an association is declared unlawful?

What is the Popular Front of India (PFI)?

  • The PFI was created in 2007 through the merger of three radicalists organisations in southern India, the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu.
    • A decision to bring the three outfits together was taken in November 2006 at a meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala.
  • The formation of the PFI was formally announced at a rally in Bengaluru during what was called the “Empower India Conference” on February 16, 2007.
  • The PFI has projected itself as an organisation that fights for the rights of minorities, Dalits, and marginalised communities.
  • It has frequently targeted the alleged anti-people policies of the State even as these mainstream parties have accused one another of being in cahoots with the PFI to gather the support of Muslims at the time of elections.
  • The PFI has itself never contested elections.

What does the ban notification say?

  • The notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposed a ban on the PFI and its associate organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and Campus Front of India, for five years under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.
  • The notification gave a number of reasons, including that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organization but, they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country”.
  • It also said that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country”.
  • Therefore, the notification said, the central government had decided to declare the PFI and its various fronts as an “unlawful association” with “immediate effect”.

What does the “ban” on the PFI mean?

  • The UAPA, India’s main law against terrorism and terrorist activities, allows the government to declare an organisation an “unlawful association” or a “terrorist organisation”, which is often colloquially described as a “ban” on the organisations.
    • Under Section 3 of the UAPA Act, the government has powers to declare an association “unlawful”.
  • Apart from a gazette notification, the government is required to notify such association by affixing a copy on its offices or by “proclaiming by beat of drum or by means of loudspeakers, the contents of the notification in the area in which the activities of the association are ordinarily carried”.

How is an “unlawful association” defined?

  • Section 2(1)(p) of the UAPA defines an “unlawful association” as an association which has for its object any unlawful activity or offence defined under Sections 153A or 153B of the Indian Penal Code — that is, promoting enmity between different groups and making imputations, assertions that are prejudicial to national integration.
  • An unlawful association is also one that “encourages or aids persons to undertake any unlawful activity, or of which the members undertake such activity”.

What happens when an association is declared unlawful?

  • Declaring an organisation an unlawful organisation, as has happened in the case of the PFI now, has serious consequences in law, which include the criminalisation of its membership and the forfeiture of the properties of the organisation.
  • Under Section 7 of the UAPA, the government has power to prohibit the use of funds of an unlawful association and, under Section 8, all places that are used by the unlawful association can be notified and seized.
  • The law allows any person aggrieved by a prohibitory order to make, within 15 days of the date of the service of such order, an application to the Court of the District Judge within the local limits.
  • Also, a person who “is and continues to be a member of such (unlawful) association; or takes part in meetings of such association; or contributes to, or receives or solicits any contribution for the purpose of, such association; or in any way assists the operations of such association” is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu


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November 2022
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