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Unlawful Activities and (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

  • IASbaba
  • April 17, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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SECURITY/ SOCIETY/ ETHICS

Topic: General Studies 2, 3 and 4:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • Security and related issues 
  • The role of NGOs, SHGs and various groups 
  • Probity and Ethics in governance

Unlawful Activities and (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

Context: Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha and Prof Teltumbde surrendered before the NIA court on orders of Supreme Court.

Brief History of the case

  • In 2018, violence broke out at the 200th anniversary celebration of a  Bhima-Koregaon battle primarily between Dalits & upper caste people
  • Clashes then broke out across the Maharashtra state 
  • Police have alleged that several activists & academics including Prof Teltumbde( a Dalit) and his organisation Elgar Parishad, as responsible for the violence that erupted in Bhima Koregaon
  • They have been charged under UAPA and accused of having Maoist links.

About Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

  • 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Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (repealed in 2004) was passed in the year 1967
  • It aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory.
  • The 2004 amendment, added “terrorist act” to the list of offences.
  • Under the act, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.
  • Powers to Union Government: If Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.

2019 Amendment of UAPA

  • The act was amended to designate individuals as terrorists on certain grounds provided in the Act.
    • Earlier only organisations could be declared as such
    • Not designating individuals as terrorists, would give them an opportunity to circumvent the law and regroup under different name
  • It empowers the Director General of NIA to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by NIA
    • Earlier it required the consent of State Police which delayed the process
  • It empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism
    • This will help solve the human resource crunch in the NIA.

Criticism of UAPA

  • Experiences of Anti-terror laws in India such as POTA and TADA reveals that they are often misused and abused.
  • The law could also be used against political opponents and civil society activists who speak against the government and brand them as “terrorists.”
  • Critics argue that the law, especially after 2019 amendment gives unfettered powers to investigating agencies.
  • Some experts feel that it is against the federal structure, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.

Importance of Civil Society Groups/ Social Activists

  • Acts as a conduit between people and authority
  • They help in interest articulation and interest aggregation in a Democratic setup
  • Collaboration with the government in welfare delivery programmes especially in remote places where administrative machinery is thin
  • Constructive criticism of government actions which leads to improvements in governance
  • Helps in preventing the excesses of executive through their active civic participation
  • Holds the government accountable for their action and ensures transparency in government functioning
  • Promotes brotherhood and harmony in society
  • Promotes environmental consciousness among people
  • Ensures that government keep humans at the centre of development strategy

Way Ahead

  • In this contemporary period of decline of Political parties, it is the civil society that cater to people’s needs, hence they should not be harassed through draconian laws
  • Anti-terror laws should not be used as tool to silence the critics of government
  • Need to set up review committee to examine and supervise the process of designating individuals as terrorists and investigation of cases with objectivity and fairness.
  • There is a greater role for judiciary here to carefully examine the cases of alleged misuse. Arbitrariness under the law should be checked through Judicial review.
  • Drawing the line between individual freedom and state obligation to provide security is a case of classical dilemma. It is up to the officers to ensure professional integrity, follow the principle of objectivity and avoid any misuse.

Connecting the dots:

  • Foreign Funding and NGOs- Critical Analysis 
  • Need for active civic participation for vibrant Democracy

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