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Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) Bill 2019

Introduction

The parliament in august 2019 passes Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Activities (UAPA) Bill 2019 that seeks to amend Uapa 1967. Earlier there were many cases registered in Uapa 1967 against many activists, journalists, students, and other violence creators across the country. This act was an attempt to minimize the unlawful activities but was not so effective in its working. Therefore in August 2019 Rajya Sabha passes Uapa bill 2019 which has added few more provisions to provide more efficiency to this act.

Definition

The word “Unlawful activity” in Uapa 2019 refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.

According to the act ‘unlawful’ activity, refers to an action that supports or is intended to support the secession of any part of India, or “disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt” the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

Objects and Powers

The act aims to fully ban the unlawful and illegal activities of associations in India. The new amendments of this act have given powers to the central government to take action against the unlawful activities and have also given some more powers to the National Investigation Association rank officers and above them to inspect, examine or investigate the cases related to terrorism.

Background

Uapa 2019 was formed after replacing or enhancing TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act), which lapsed in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA)  which was also repealed in 2004 — was originally passed in 1967 under the rule of  Congress government which was led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. After so many amendments of 2004, 2008, and 2013 in 2019 finally uapa was formed. Below mention is the timeline sequence:

Introduced    ⇒                       Passed             →                                             Passed

Lok Sabha          ⇒                      Lok Sabha         ⇒                                  Rajya Sabha

 

Need for the Amendments

According to the Global Terrorism Index report of 2019 India has jumped from 8th to 7th rank in the countries with a high threat of terrorism and social day. Therefore, to amend the act like uapa 2019 that will act as a counter-terrorism mechanism against all the wrongful/ illegal act. Shifting for a group to an individual designating terrorist is a strong preventive mechanism that is much more important than tackling acts of terror. Declaring the organization as terrorist organizations would not stop terrorism but rather designating the ‘LONE WOLF’ like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar will support uapa little bit and reduce terrorism.

Key Amendments

  • Special provisions for terrorist activities: under this act the central government have the power to address any individuals as terrorist without waiting for the evidence-based on a notification in the official gazette.
  • Approval of national investigating agency: with the addition of this provision in the act an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director-General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.
  • The investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA): with the new addition in this act now with the deputy superintendent or assistant commissioner of police or above the inspector rank officers can also investigate the cases.
  • The act before the latest amendment includes the death penalty and life imprisonment as the highest punishment under which both Indian and Foreign nationals can be charged.

Insertion to the schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, comprising of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). The Bill adds another treaty to this list namely, the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

 Apprehensions regarding the Amendments

  1. Illegal: there are many bad experiences related to anti-terror laws like Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act which is often misused or altered by some wrongdoers and corrupted government officers for self-interest.
  2. Act of individuals: this act has provided enough powers to the state authorities to detain or arrest any individual or group on whom they have a doubt of being indulged in unlawful and terrorist activities.
  3. Federalism: some experts of federal structure fells that with the implementation of this act the state police authorities and duties have been neglected and they also believe that designating them as a terrorist is unnecessary because they bear already being prosecuted for the criminal act.

Way Forward

Terrorism is a big threat to any country’s citizens as well as its economy. Nowadays it’s not a difficult task to influence the young individuals and get them indulged in the terrorist activities. Therefore to prevent this the act of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Activities (UAPA) Bill 2019 was passed. So, it is important to set a committee that will review and examine terrorist activities and investigation procedures. Along with this judiciary also plays a huge role to prevent the unlawful activities. The court should draw a line between individuals and state authorities and should punish all the criminals even the high-rank officers and try to maintain social and professional integrity.

Arguments in Favour

The designation of individual terrorists in the international scenario facilitates speedy trial and prosecution of terrorist activities. It has given some lenience to NIA officers. As stated by the honourable Home Minister that law cannot be misused, so neither individuals nor terrorist organizations would be spared by investigating agencies either. Also, there is no change bail or arrest provisions therefore it is evident to say that there will be no fundamental rights violation.

Criticism

The act has given absolute powers to the court by the way of which the centre can treat anything as illegal according to its will and can declare anyone a terrorist. This provision is against the federal provisions of the country because the powers allotted can be potentially misused which will violate the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Designating the individuals as terrorists and treating them badly raises many constitutional questions because it violates the fundamental rights. After all, no individual cannot be called a ‘terrorist’ before conviction in a court of law.

Conclusion

The vague and unfettered discretionary power will only act as a tool to carry out a potential witch hunt and target dissenting voices. Not to mention, it is a direct threat to the basic fundamental rights to freedom of life, speech, and expression, making the lives of minorities even more vulnerable. Crimes including bio-terrorism and narco-terrorism should be covered under the purview of this law. The judicial system needs to be further strengthened and there is also a need for police reforms. There is a need to ensure that minorities do not suffer and police should file a charge sheet within 90 days and not 180 days as mentioned in the bill.

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