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Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

 

Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: UAPA- features, significance, concerns over its misuse and need.

 

Context: The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to respond to petitions challenging its decision to amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act giving it powers to categorise anyone as a terrorist.

Petitions say Act confers govt with ‘discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers’ to categorise a person as a terrorist.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019:

  1. The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. It empowers officials to brand any person ‘a terrorist‘, without following due process.
  2. It does not provide any legal consequence in case an individual is designated a terrorist.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The law could target minorities or a section of people thereby affecting their cultural rights.
  6. Indefinite Imprisonment without Trial:Even if the person is eventually acquitted of the charges, the delays in conducting judicial proceedings mean the case may only get heard several years after their arrest – failure to get bail means they have to spend the entire time in jail.

 

Sources: the Hindu.