Topics Covered: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967:
Delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA) a division bench of the Delhi High Court has laid down some important principles upon the imposition of Section 15, 17 & 18 of the Act.
What’s the case?
The issue came up while granting bail to Delhi-riots accused who faced charges for being part of a “larger conspiracy” during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 protests which erupted into violence resulting in deaths across North-East Delhi.
Sections 15, 17 and 18 of UAPA:
- S. 15 engrafts the offence of ‘terrorist act’.
- S. 17 lays-down the punishment for raising funds for committing a terrorist act.
- S. 18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy etc. to commit a terrorist act or any act preparatory to commit a terrorist act’.
Key observations made by the court:
- “Terrorist Act” Should not be used lightly so as to trivialise them.
- Terrorist activity is that which travels beyond the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with under ordinary penal law. The court relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hitendra Vishnu Thakur.
- Every terrorist may be a criminal but every criminal cannot be labelled terrorist (Hitendra Vishnu Thakur judgment).
- Terrorist acts should not be equated with the usual law and order problem in the state.
- “Terrorist Act” Can’t Be Casually Applied To Cases Falling Within Conventional Offences Under IPC.
Implications of this judgment:
- With this, the court has raised the bar for the State to book an individual for terrorism under the UAPA.
- It also points out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
- This caution is significant given the sharp surge in the state’s use of this provision in a sweeping range of alleged offences — against tribals in Chhattisgarh, those using social media through proxy servers in Jammu and Kashmir; and journalists in Manipur among others.
A total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.
For more about UAPA, refer
- Definition of unlawful activity.
- Powers of Centre under the act.
- Is judicial review applicable in such cases?
- Changes brought about by amendments in 2004 and 2019.
- Can foreign nationals be charged under the act?
Do you agree that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act could prove catastrophic for fundamental rights? Is sacrificing liberty for national security justified? Discuss and provide for your opinion.
Sources: Indian Express.