The Supreme Court recently put freeze on sedition proceedings under the Section 124A (sedition law) of the IPC for persons who have also been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967 in the same case or separately.
- This freeze has rejected bails for some journalist and JNU activists who also face charges under the UAPA (for anti-India sloganeering and activites).
GS III- Security Challenges
Dimensions of the Article:
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967
- Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019
- Some Concerning Points about the designation of someone as terrorist
- Issues with UAPA
- About the Increasing UAPA cases
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967 is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (which lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (which was repealed in 2004).
- Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
- The National Integration Council appointed a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation to look into, the aspect of putting reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
- The agenda of the NIC limited itself to communalism, casteism and regionalism and not terrorism.
- However, the provisions of the UAPA Act contravenes the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019
- The original Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.
- It provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.
Key Provisions of the Amendment
- The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
- Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
- commits or participates in acts of terrorism
- prepares for terrorism
- promotes terrorism
- is otherwise involved in terrorism
- The word “terror” or “terrorist” is not defined.
- However, a “terrorist act” is defined as any act committed with the intent –
- to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India
- to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country
- The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette.
- The Bill empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
- Under the Act, an investigating officer can seize properties that may be connected with terrorism with prior approval of the Director General of Police.
Some Concerning Points about the designation of someone as terrorist
- The government is NOT required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard before such a designation.
- At present, legally, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
- In this line, an individual who is convicted in a terror case is legally referred to as a ‘terrorist’.
- And those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are referred to as ‘terror accused’.
- The Bill does NOT clarify the standard of proof required to establish that an individual is involved or is likely to be involved in terrorist activities.
- The Bill also does not require the filing of cases or arresting individuals while designating them as terrorists.
Issues with UAPA
- UAPA gives the state authority vague powers to detain and arrest individuals who it believes to be indulged in terrorist activities. Thus, the state gives itself more powers vis-a-vis individual liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- UAPA empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for a developing democratic society. The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).
- UAPA can also be thought of to go against the federal structure since it neglects the authority of state police in terrorism cases, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.
How can the names be removed?
- Application – The Bill seeks to give the central government the power to remove a name from the schedule when an individual makes an application.
- The procedure for such an application and the process of decision-making will also be decided by the central government.
- If an application filed is rejected by the government, the Bill gives the person the right to seek a review within one month of rejection.
- Review committee – Under the amendment Bill, the central government will set up a review committee.
- It will consist of a chairperson (a retired or sitting judge of a High Court) and 3 other members.
- It will be empowered to order the government to delete the name of an individual from the schedule that lists “terrorists”, if it considers the order to be flawed.
- Apart from these two avenues, the individual can also move the courts challenging the government’s order.
About the Increasing UAPA cases
- According to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament in March, a total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.
- UAPA, in relaxing timelines for the state to file chargesheets and its stringent conditions for bail, gives the state more powers compared to the Indian Penal Code.
- Union Home Ministry presented data in the Rajya Sabha, based on the 2019 Crime in India Report compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which showed that only 2.2 % of cases registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act between the years 2016-2019 ended in convictions by court.
- As many as 1948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1226 cases registered across the country in 2019. Such cases registered in 2015-2018 stood at 897, 922, 901 and 1182 and the number of those arrested was 1128, 999, 1554 and 1421 respectively.