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Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019

 

What to study?

For prelims: Key features of the bill.

For mains: Need for amendments, concerns associated and other associations issues.

 

Context: Parliament passes the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019.

 

Key features of the Bill:

The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

Who may commit terrorism: Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.  The Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.  

Approval for seizure of property by NIA: If the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of properties that may be connected with terrorism.

Investigation by NIA: Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.  The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

Insertion to 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, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).  The Bill adds another treaty to the list.  This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).     

 

Why is it being opposed?

  1. This is a potentially dangerous amendment which will empower officials of Union Ministry to brand any person ‘a terrorist‘, without following due process. The name of such a person will be included in the ‘Fourth Schedule’ proposed to be added in the parent Act. The only statutory remedy available to such a person is to make an application before the Central Government for de-notification, which will be considered by a Review Committee constituted by the Government itself.
  2. The amendment does not provide any legal consequence in case an individual is designated a terrorist. The inclusion of one’s name in the Fourth Schedule as a terrorist per se will not lead to any conviction, imprisonment, fine, disqualifications or any sort of civil penalties. So this is simply a power for the government to brand any one as a terrorist. 
  3. An official designation as a terrorist will be akin to ‘civil death’ for a person, with social boycott, expulsion from job, hounding by media, and perhaps attack from self-proclaimed vigilante groups following.

 

Background:

The UAPA – an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004 — was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Eventually amendments were brought in under the successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.

 

Mains Question: Discuss how Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) impinges on the personal liberty of citizens of India.