What is the UAPA Act? The inception of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was in 1965. This law which is an enhancement of the TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004. This was done under the leadership of Congress.
Currently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) serves as India’s Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency, as formed by the NIA Act 2008.
The UAPA Amendment Act 2019 was reintroduced in the Lok Sabha. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 2nd, 2019.
Salient Features of The UAPA Act
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was recently in a news published by The Hindu newspaper. This was in relation to the arrest of student activists Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Natasha Narwal from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. They were arrested in May 2020 in connection with violence in the Northeast part of Delhi.
Let us discuss some of the salient features of this law.
#It is essentially an anti-terrorism statute aimed at effectively preventing certain illegal acts of people and organisations.
#Its primary goal is to enable the state to deal with acts aimed at undermining India’s integrity and sovereignty.
#This law gives the central government full power. It has the authority to declare an action illegal via the use of an Official Gazette.
#The death sentence and life imprisonment are the most severe punishments under the statute.
#Both Indian and foreign nationals can be prosecuted under the legislation. It will apply to offenders in the same way, even if the offence is committed on foreign soil, outside of India.
#The investigative agency has 180 days after the arrests to prepare a charge sheet. This period can be extended further if the court is informed.
UAPA Act UPSC: Amendment of 2004
#It added “terrorist action” to the list of offences to prohibit organisations from engaging in terrorist operations.
#Until 2004, “illegal” activities referred to actions involving secession and territorial cession. The term “terrorist act” was introduced to the list of offences following the 2004 amendment.
UAPA Act UPSC: Amendment of 2019
#The amendment gives the Central Government the authority to designate persons as terrorists based on specific criteria.
#It gives the Director-General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) the authority to approve the seizure or attachment of property when the matter is being investigated by the agency.
#It also allows NIA officials with the rank of Inspector or higher to probe terrorist cases.
# Previously, only officials with the level of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police had the authority to conduct investigations.
What is the Rationale behind this Law?
#Maintaining Sovereignty and Integrity: It was originally enacted to allow the government to put a stop to separatist movements.
#The legislation grants increased powers of search, seizure, and detention, which are useful in helping investigations and averting the occurrence of a larger crime.
#Article 19(2) of the Constitution was modified for the last and last time in 1963. As yet another exception to the right to free expression, the words “the sovereignty and integrity of India” were included. Based on this exemption, the parliament was able to pass the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
#Countries all around the world have enacted strict legislation to properly safeguard the security framework under their jurisdiction. For example, the United States, Israel, China, Pakistan, and the European Union all have legislation in place to designate ‘individuals’ as terrorists.
Why is it in News? Why is it Important for UPSC?
The Delhi High Court has granted bail to student activists charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The court clarified the parameters of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the UAPA when delivering the judgement.
The issue was raised when giving bail to Delhi-riots accused of being part of a “bigger plot” during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 demonstrations, which broke into violence and resulted in deaths across North-East Delhi.
Section 15, 17 and 18 of UAPA
#15 engrafts the crime of ‘terrorist action.’
#17 specifies the penalty for soliciting funding to perform a terrorist attack.
#18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy to conduct a terrorist action or any action preliminary to committing a terrorist attack.’
Important Observations by the Court
#The term “terrorist action” should not be used carelessly to trivialise them.
#Terrorist action is defined as activity that goes beyond the capabilities of law enforcement agents to deal with under ordinary criminal law. The court based its conclusion on the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Hitendra Vishnu Thakur case.
#Terrorist activities should not be confused with the state’s normal law and order problems.
#The Term “Terrorist Action” Cannot Be Used Frivolously In Cases That Fall Under Conventional Offenses Under the IPC.
#The border between the constitutionally protected freedom to demonstrate (Article 19) and terrorist conduct appears to be blurring.
Implications Of This Ruling
#This is the first time a court has condemned suspected abuse of the UAPA against persons in instances that do not necessarily come under the definition of “terrorism.”
#According to data presented in Parliament by the Ministry of Home Affairs in March, a total of 1126 cases were filed under UAPA in 2019, a significant increase from 897 in 2015.
The court has therefore raised the threshold for the State to charge an individual with terrorism under this law.
Draconian Effects of The UAPA Law
#The definition of terrorism in Section 15 of the law is broad and encompassing, encompassing practically every type of violent conduct, political or non-political.
#The police have the authority under sections 43A and 43B to search, seize, and arrest anybody engaging in illegal activity without a warrant.
#With the court’s consent, the police can remove the accused from judicial custody and place him in police custody.
#The accused does not have the option of anticipatory bail under UAPA. It presumes the accused guilty simply based on the evidence gathered.
Relevance of the UAPA Act in UPSC
The UAPA Law is a relevant topic for the UPSC examination this year. Under this law, both Indian, as well as foreign nationals, can be charged. As per the protocol, any investigating officer is required to get prior approval from the Director-General of Police before seizing pieces of evidence that may have a connection with terrorism. Under the provisions of this law, the investigating officer is usually someone from the ranks of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police.
This is an effective act that acts as a deterrent for any activities related to terrorism in the country.According to this law, any person or organisation who commits or participates in any form of terrorism prepares for terrorism or promotes any form of terrorism could be designated as terrorists.
Misuse of This Act
#The government has exploited the act’s broad powers to suppress political opposition rather than to prevent sovereignty and integrity.
As a result, many innocent protestors were booked under the provisions of this Act, thereby undermining their freedom of speech under article 19.
#Because the concept requires that every individual be presumed innocent unless proven guilty, pre-trial detention is a breach of this principle.
#However, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention law, the Court may reject bail for a terrorist act if there are substantial grounds to think that the charge is prima facie genuine.
#The broad powers granted to police for search and arrest violate an individual’s right to privacy. It is a basic right under Article 21 of the Indian constitution, as determined by the court in the case of K.S Puttaswamy vs. Union of India.
#The NCRB does not keep relatable data based on religion, ethnicity, caste, or gender. This presents a barrier in recognising vulnerable groups that are subjected to more abuse as a result of the act.
How to Stop This Act from being Misused?
Since there are chances that the UAPA law could be misused by the political parties, it is important to have some effective safeguards in place to prevent its misuse. Let us discuss some of the remedial measures here:
#The Parliament could play an effective role in rectifying the oddities with a suitable amendment.
#The Court could play an effective rule too in striking down provisions that clash with basic Fundamental Rights.
#Government should ensure that the law enforcement officers are educated about the provisions of this law.
#The cases registered under this act should be categorised to identify communities prone to abuse.
We hope that this article has highlighted the features of the UAPA Act and now you know what is UAPA Act. This act was recently in the news. Hence UAPA Act has great possibilities to be asked in the UPSC exam. The Parliament cleared the UAPA Amendment Act 2019. This act empowers the Director-General of the National Investigation Agency to grant approval to seize a property connected with terrorist activities.
At UPSC Pathshala, we are committed to assisting you with curated study materials and guidance. Since several lakh aspirants appear for the UPSC exam every year, but the passing percentage is very less, it is advisable to start your preparation strategically and at an early stage.