Ankita Lode, a final year student of Yeshwant Law College, Wardha has written this Article on “UAPA – Why and How it is a stringent law”.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, is a law passed by the Indian Parliament in 1967 to prevent unlawful activities that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India. The UAPA has been amended several times since its inception, with the latest amendment taking place in August 2019. However, The UAPA is a controversial law that has been criticized for being draconian and violating the civil liberties of citizens.
Under UAPA, a person can be designated as a terrorist, and his or her property can be confiscated. Furthermore, The law allows for detention without charge for up to 180 days. Whereas, It denies bail to the accused for up to six months. It also permits the use of confessions made to police officers as evidence in court, and the burden of proof lies on the accused, not the prosecution.
Brief History of UAPA:
The UAPA was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1967, primarily to deal with secessionist activities in the country. The law was amended in 2004 to include acts of terrorism. It was amended again in 2008 to give more powers to law enforcement agencies. Moreover, The 2008 amendment allowed for the detention of a person for up to 180 days without bail. It also allowed the confessions made to a police officer to be admissible in court.
In August 2019, the UAPA was amended once again, allowing the government to designate individuals as terrorists. The amendment also expanded the definition of terrorist activities to include economic offenses and activities that threaten India’s unity and integrity.
Purpose of UAPA:
The primary purpose of the UAPA is to prevent and punish activities that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India. The law seeks to prohibit unlawful activities such as terrorism, secessionist activities, and other activities that undermine the unity and integrity of the country. The UAPA also aims to strengthen the legal framework for dealing with these activities. Moreover, It also provides law enforcement agencies with the necessary powers to prevent and investigate such activities.
Coverage of UAPA:
The UAPA covers a wide range of activities that are considered to be unlawful and a threat to India’s sovereignty and integrity. Moreover, These activities include acts of terrorism, secessionist activities, smuggling of arms and ammunition, and money laundering. The UAPA also covers offenses related to membership of a terrorist organization, recruitment for terrorist activities, and providing support to terrorist organizations.
The UAPA allows for the seizure of property that is suspected to be used for unlawful activities. It also provides the freezing of assets of individuals and organizations involved in such activities. Additionally, The law allows for the interception and monitoring of communications to prevent and investigate such activities.
Provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)
Definition of unlawful activity:
- Section 2 of the UAPA defines “unlawful activity” as any action that:
- Causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India;
- Causes or is intended to cause incitement to the commission of any offense;
- Threatens the security of India; or
- Is intended to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country.
Powers of the Central Government to declare an organization as unlawful:
- Section 3 of the UAPA empowers the Central Government to declare an organization as unlawful if it:
- Commits or participates in acts of terrorism;
- Prepares for terrorism;
- Promotes or encourages terrorism;
- Is involved in the commission of any other unlawful activity that poses a threat to the sovereignty, unity, integrity, or security of India.
Arrest and detention of suspects without a warrant:
- Section 43A of the UAPA allows a police officer to arrest and detain a person without a warrant if he/she is suspected of having committed an offense under the Act.
- The person can also be detained for up to 180 days, subject to certain conditions.
Bail provisions under UAPA:
- Section 43D of the UAPA provides that a person accused of committing an offense under the Act shall not be granted bail if:
- The court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accusation against the person is prima facie true;
- The offense is punishable with death or imprisonment for life;
- The person has been previously convicted of a terrorist offense.
Trial and sentencing under UAPA:
- Section 13 of the UAPA provides for the punishment for various offenses under the Act.
- It includes imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and up to life imprisonment.
- The trial of offenses under the UAPA is conducted by a special court designated by the Central Government.
Offenses under the UAPA:
- The UAPA lists several offenses, including committing or organizing any unlawful activity, being a member of an unlawful association, raising funds for an unlawful activity, and providing support to a terrorist organization.
- Additionally, The penalties for these offenses range from imprisonment for a term of three years to life imprisonment (Section 16).
Designation of individuals as terrorists:
- Under Section 35 of the UAPA, the Central Government has the power to designate an individual as a terrorist if he/she:
- Commits or participates in acts of terrorism;
- Prepares for terrorism;
- Promotes or encourages terrorism;
- Is otherwise involved in any unlawful activity that poses a threat to the sovereignty, unity, integrity, or security of India.
- Once an individual is designated as a terrorist, his/her property can be seized and he/she can be prevented from traveling abroad.
The investigation by NIA:
- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a specialized agency set up under the UAPA to investigate offenses under the Act.
- The NIA also has the power to investigate offenses anywhere in India. Its officers have the same powers as officers of a police station in relation to such investigations (Section 6).
Forfeiture of property:
- The UAPA allows for the forfeiture of property that is found to be derived from, or used in, an unlawful activity (Section 60).
- A person convicted of an offense under the UAPA can appeal to the High Court within 90 days of the date of the conviction or the order of the special court (Section 58).
Criticisms of UAPA
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is an Indian law that provides the government with sweeping powers to combat terrorism, separatism, and other illegal activities. However, the law has been criticized by human rights activists, legal experts, and civil society organizations for its potential for abuse, lack of transparency, and accountability. In this article, we will explore some of the criticisms of UAPA.
Human Rights Violations under UAPA:
One of the most significant criticisms of UAPA is the potential for human rights violations. The law permits the government to detain suspects for up to six months without charge. That can extend the detention period to up to two years if necessary. However, This provision violates the right to a fair trial, which is a fundamental human right. The law also allows the government to use secret evidence against suspects, making it challenging for the accused to defend themselves adequately.
Moreover, UAPA grants the government the power to declare an organization as a terrorist organization and ban it. However, This provision has been widely criticized as being vague and arbitrary. As It led to the government’s misuse of the law to suppress dissenting voices.
Misuse of UAPA:
UAPA has been criticized for its misuse by the government, particularly in the case of political dissent. In fact, The law has been used to arrest and detain activists, journalists, and human rights defenders on charges of sedition, promoting enmity, and other offenses. However, These arrests have been criticized as being politically motivated, with the government using the law to silence its critics and stifle dissent.
The law has also been misused to target religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims. The government has used UAPA to arrest and detain individuals accused of terrorism, without providing sufficient evidence to support the allegations. However, These arrests have been criticized as being part of a broader campaign of Islamophobia, with the government using the law to target the Muslim community.
Lack of Transparency and Accountability:
Another criticism of UAPA is the lack of transparency and accountability in its implementation. The law permits the government to use secret evidence against suspects, making it challenging to determine the validity of the allegations. The government also has broad discretionary powers under UAPA, which can be used arbitrarily, without any oversight or accountability.
Moreover, the law has been criticized for its lack of transparency in the process of designating an organization as a terrorist organization. The government does not provide any justification for the designation, making it difficult for the accused to challenge the designation.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is an Indian law that was passed in 1967 to prevent unlawful activities and combat terrorism in India. However, the Act has been widely criticized for its potential to be used to suppress dissent and target innocent individuals and communities. Here are a few case studies that illustrate the impact of UAPA on individuals and communities.
Varavara Rao Case:
Varavara Rao is a renowned Telugu poet, writer, and civil rights activist who has been imprisoned for alleged links with Maoists under the UAPA. Rao was arrested in 2018 and has been in custody ever since. He has been denied bail several times despite his deteriorating health conditions. The UAPA charges against him include waging war against the state and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.
Bhima Koregaon Case:
The Bhima Koregaon case involves the arrest of several prominent activists and lawyers, including Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha, under the UAPA. The activists were accused of inciting violence during a rally in Bhima Koregaon in 2018. The UAPA charges against them include being members of a terrorist organization, raising funds for terrorist activities, and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.
Manipur Fake Encounter Case:
In 2012, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charged 11 security personnel of the 3rd Battalion of the Manipur Rifles under the UAPA for their alleged involvement in the extrajudicial killing of six people in a fake encounter in Manipur in 2009. The UAPA charges against them included waging war against the state, conspiracy, and murder.
Other Case Laws:
Recently the supreme court was examining three of its judgments delivered in 2011 in State of Kerala vs Raneef; Arup Bhuyan vs Union of India; and Indra Das vs State of Assam and Upheld the Constitutionality of Section 10(a)(i) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and Overrules the judgments in Arup Bhuyan vs State of Assam. The SC reversed its earlier ruling which said that “mere membership of a banned organization will not incriminate a person” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987, “unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence and does an act intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence”.
The UAPA is a controversial law that has been criticized for being draconian and violating the civil liberties of citizens. While the law is intended to prevent activities that threaten India’s sovereignty and integrity, there are concerns that it is being misused to target individuals and organizations that are critical of the government. Hence, It is important to strike a balance between national security and civil liberties and ensure that the UAPA is used judiciously to prevent and punish unlawful activities.
UAPA has been criticized for its potential for human rights violations, misuse, lack of transparency, and accountability. Moreover, The law’s provisions have been used to suppress dissent and target minorities, raising concerns over the law’s legitimacy and compatibility with human rights standards. The government must ensure that UAPA is not used to violate human rights and instead use it judiciously to combat terrorism and other illegal activities. In conclusion, the UAPA is a stringent law designed to combat terrorism and other unlawful activities.
However, its broad and vague provisions, along with its potential for misuse, have made it a controversial law. While the government argues that the law is necessary for national security, critics argue that it is being used to stifle dissent and curtail civil liberties. Thus, it is important to strike a balance between national security and individual rights to ensure that the UAPA is used only in genuine cases of terrorism and not as a tool for political repression.
Also Read : UAPA and Freedom of Speech and Expression. Click Here!
- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
- “The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019”, PRS Legislative Research.
- “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967: A Critical Analysis”, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, available at http://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1967-37_0.pdf
- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018). India: UN Human Rights Chief urges review of terrorism law to ensure it is not misused. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23639
- Human Rights Watch (2020). India: Drop Cases Against Activists, Journalists. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/15/india-drop-cases-against-activists-journalists
- Amnesty International India (2021). UAPA: The Law that Chills Dissent. https://amnesty.org.in/uapa-the-law-that-chills-dissent/
- The Wire (2020). Understanding the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. https://thewire.in/law/understanding-the-unlawful-activities-prevention-act-1967
- The Indian Express (2021). UAPA: The Law of the Land that Makes Sure You Don’t Land in Jail. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-unlawful-activities-prevention-act-uapa-7384017/
- The Quint (2018). The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Why it’s Controversial. https://www.thequint.com/news/india/the-unlawful-activities-prevention-act-and-why-its-controversial
- “The Varavara Rao Case Explained.” The Wire. https://thewire.in/rights/varavara-rao-case-explained
- “Bhima Koregaon case: What is the UAPA, under which activists have been booked?” The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bhima-koregaon-case-what-is-uapa-under-which-activists-have-been-booked-5228344/
- “Manipur Fake Encounter Case: SC Directs Special Court to Complete Trial by July 2018.” News18. https://www.news18.com/news/india/manipur-fake-encounter-case-sc-directs-special-court-to-complete-trial-by-july-2018-1574415.html
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India: https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/UAPA1967.pdf
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019, PRS Legislative Research: https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/unlawful-activities-prevention-amendment-bill-2019
- “UAPA: How the Law Has Been Used to Silence Dissent,” The Wire, August 31, 2020: https://thewire.in/law/uapa-how-the-law-has-been-used-to-silence-dissent
- “Why UAPA is a Cause for Concern,” The Hindu, September 1, 2020: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/why-uapa-is-a-cause-for-concern/article32429450.ece
- “The Misuse of UAPA and the Erosion of Democracy,” Amnesty International India, January 6, 2020: https://amnesty.org.in/the-misuse-of-uapa-and-the-erosion-of-democracy/
- “UAPA: How a Law to Tackle Terrorism Became the Government’s Favorite Weapon Against Dissent,” The Scroll, October 7, 2020: https://scroll.in/article/974790/uapa-how-a-law-to-tackle-terrorism-became-the-governments-favourite-weapon-against-dissent