Insights into Editorial: UAPA declared terrorists under new anti-terror law
Recently, amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (“UAPA”), India’s signature anti-terrorism legislation, allowing the Central government to designate individuals as “terrorists”, caused a furore.
According to statistics published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 922 cases were reported under UAPA in 2016, which was 5% less than what was recorded in 2014, with 976 cases.
At the same time, it was up by 3% from 2015 (897 cases). In total, 2,700 cases were registered over 2014, 2015 and 2016.
In response, it was argued that the UAPA provided for a system of checks and balances which would ensure that governmental abuse could be swiftly reviewed and rectified.
Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA):
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 aims at the effective prevention of unlawful activities across India and abroad.
The UAPA, an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (repealed in 2004) was originally passed in the year 1967.
Its main objective was to provide powers to central agencies and states to deal with terrorist activities.
The Key amendments are: To designate individuals as terrorists on certain grounds provided in the Act.
The Act empowers the Director General of NIA to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
The Act 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.
- Terrorist acts are committed not by organizations but by individuals.
- Declaring an organization as a terrorist organization will not stop the individuals behind it.
- India faces one of the highest threats of terrorism in the world and therefore its counter-terrorism mechanism must be stringent.
- USA has a very successful example of counter-terrorism mechanism, especially after 9/11, and has been successful in curbing terrorist activities.
- Not designating individuals as terrorists, would give them an opportunity to circumvent the law and they would simply gather under a different name and keep up their terror activities.
- A specialised investigating agency, NIA ,cannot be dependent on state police for approval for seizure of property related to terrorism that has inter-state and international ramifications.
- Investigation by inspector rank officer would help solve the human resource crunch in the NIA.
- This move would quicken the delivery of justice in UAPA related cases, which are reviewed by senior officers at various levels.
Concerns raised are:
- Experiences of Anti-terror laws in India such as POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) reveals that they are often misused and abused.
- Opposition parties have criticised the new law, whose constitutional validity has been challenged by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights in the Supreme Court through a public interest litigation.
- Critics argue that the new law gives unfettered powers to investigating agencies.
- Critics warned that vesting such sweeping powers in the hands of the political executive would prove to be a recipe for abuse, and for political and social persecution.
- Opposition parties have raised concern over the law, saying it could also be used against political opponents and civil society activists who spoke against the government may be branded as “terrorists.”
- It would appear to be a very basic principle of justice that if an association is to be banned for unlawful activities, then the material on the basis of which that ban is justified is put to the association so that it has a chance to defend itself.
- To take a decision on the legality of a ban by looking at secret material that is withheld even from the association itself is exactly akin to condemning a man unheard.
- Some experts feel that it is against the federal structure since it neglects the authority of state police in terrorism cases, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.
Terrorism is a global problem and the UN along with several other countries, have provisions in their laws to designate individuals as terrorists.
An individual’s psychology is the birth place of Terrorism, rather than an institution.
If, in the first place, an individual is stopped from attracting other individuals into terrorism by providing ideological and financial support, this menace can be finished.
Hence, designating an individual as terrorist, after following the due process of law, is of prime importance to nip terrorism in the bud.
Union Minister for Home Affairs replying to the debate on the Bill, appealed to the House to pass the bill unanimously to send a strong message to the world that terrorists are the enemies of humanity and India is committed to finish terror from its soil.