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Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (repealed in 2004) was passed in the year 1967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
- 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