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Unlawful Activities Prevention Act ( UAPA ) explained – Why getting bail under UAPA is difficult?

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act ( UAPA ) explained – Why getting bail under UAPA is difficult?

Relevance

  • GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || Terrorism

Why in the news?

  • Father Stan Swamy passed away in a hospital recently and he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

More in news

  • Some social activists were released from a year-long sentence in Delhi. They were charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for anti-national activities while protesting for NRC, CAA and NPR. However, many of these activists have raised the concern of misuse of UAPA.
  • A total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.

UAPA

  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967(also referred as UAPA) has mentioned about unlawful associations, punishment for terrorist activities including defining terrorist act (section 15), offences by companies, forfeiture of proceeds of terrorism or any property intended to be used for terrorism, listing of terrorist organisation under Schedule I of the Act and constituting Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal under section 5 and three Schedule.
    • Schedule I-List of Terrorist Organisation.
    • Schedule II –International Conventions and Protocols to curb and suppress terrorism.
    • Schedule III– It provides security features to define high quality counterfeit Indian currency. notes which include watermark, latent image and see through registration in currency notes.
    • Schedule IV– Name of Individuals – Added by 2019 Amendment.

Aim of UAPA

  • Central government was considering a stringent law against calls for secession in the mid-1960s. In 1967, the Naxalbari incident imparted a sense of urgency and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed in December 1967.
  • Law aimed at prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective was to give powers to central institutions for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.

Scope widened over years

  • The scope of UAPA 1967 has widened as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been amended multiple times – 2004, 2008, 2012 & 2019.
  • Initially, the Act provided for declaring an association or a body of individuals “unlawful” if they indulged in any activity which threatened the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • In 2004 amendment, many provisions of POTA (Prevention of terrorism act) were added to UAPA after POTA was repealed in 2002.
  • In 2008, after the Mumbai attacks it was further strengthened.
  • In 2012, UAPA was brought in line with various requirements of the Financial Action Task Force. The ban on organisations was extended to 5 years from the earlier 2 year ban.
  • August 2019
    • Parliament cleared the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 to designate individuals as terrorists if the individual commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism.

Purpose of the 2019 Amendment made to UAPA

  • Speedy Investigation
    • To facilitate speedy investigation and prosecution of terror offences by empowering National Investigative Agencies (NIA) and designating an individual as terrorist in line with the international practices.
  • Prevention of misuse
    • Amendment made to UAPA will not be misused against any individual unless individuals including Urban Maoistsengage in terrorist activities against the security and sovereignty of India.
  • Empowers NIA- No permission needed from state police in dealing with any particular state case
    • Law does not take away powers of the state police. However, when National Investigative Agency (NIA) takes up a case having international and inter-state ramifications, all the facts pertinent to the case are with the NIA, and not with the state police.
    • Previously under the 1967 UAPA law, it required that NIA take prior permission from the respective state DGPs to start investigation in terror cases. This delayed the investigation process and allowed the accused to hide their traces or activities.
    • The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
    • The Act also empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.
  • The Amendment has added another treaty to the list namely The International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).     

Misuse of the UAPA

  • With such high barriers of proof, it is now impossible for an accused to obtain bail, and is in fact a convenient tool to put a person behind bars indefinitely.
  • This is being abused by the government, police and prosecution liberally: now, all dissenters are routinely implicated under charges of sedition or criminal conspiracy and under the UAPA.
  • In multiple instances, evidence is untenable, sometimes even arguably planted, and generally weak overall.
  • But as a consequence of UAPA being applied, the accused cannot even get bail.

Conclusion

  • To prevent the misuse, the decision in the Watali case must be urgently reversed or diluted, otherwise, we run the risk of personal liberties being compromised very easily.
  • The provision of the act leaves scope for misuse and therefore the judiciary and legislature need to take steps to provide safeguards to prevent the misuse.

Mains model question

  • Indian government has strengthened the anti-terrorism laws by amending the unlawful activities (Prevention) act (UAPA), 1967 and the NIA Act. Analyze the changes in the context of the prevailing security environment while discussing the scope and reasons for opposing the UAPA by human rights organizations.

References

  • https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/uapa-cases-india-supreme-court-anti-terror-law-7403398/