- The arrest of prominent human rights activists by police under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 in connection to Bhima-Koregaon violence has been widely questioned.
- Various human rights activists have demanded repeal of UAPA, 1967.
Background of the issue
Misuse of UAPA
- It has been alleged that various anti-terror laws are rampantly misused by the state time and again.
- A group of activists were arrested earlier in June 2018 under UAPA.
- In 2007, a Mumbai-based activist Arun Feriera, was arrested and branded an “Urban Maoist”.
Misuse of other Anti-Terror laws in India
- Critics allege that low conviction rates under these laws point to misuse of laws of terrorism in India by both State police and Investigation Agencies.
- The question of Constitutional validity of TADA was decided in 1994, and the act lapsed in 1995.
- Under TADA, out of 76166 persons arrested, only 843 convicted at a conviction rate of little over 1.1 per cent.
- Similarly, POTA was also clogged with allegations of gross misuse of its provisions by some State Governments.
Anti-terror laws in India
- The subject of terrorism was dealt earlier by the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA), which prevailed between 1985 and 1995 and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA).
- TADA was extended every two years.
- Famous case under TADA included Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
- Only less than two per cent of the accused charge-sheeted under TADA were convicted, the rest of them were either discharged or acquitted.
- Thus owing to rampant misuse, it was allowed to lapse in 1995.
- The Act defined a “terrorist act” and “disruptive activities”.
- It put restrictions on the grant of bail.
- Provided enhanced power to detain suspects and attach properties.
- Confession before a police officer was admissible as evidence.
- Separate courts.
- The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002 in the aftermath of the 2001 Parliament attack.
- After reports of gross misuse of the Act by some state governments, it was repealed in 2004.
- Detention of suspect up to 180 days.
- Included fundraising in the definition of a “terrorism”.
- A separate chapter to deal with terrorist organizations.
- The Unlwaful Activities Prevention Act was originally enacted for the purpose of imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, on exercise of the rights enshrined under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, was amended in 2004 to deal with terrorism, with many provisions of POTA re-incorporated.
- In 2008, after Mumbai attacks, it was further strengthened.
Comparing UAPA with POTA and TADA
- Under TADA and POTA, mainly the offences against the secure nature of the State and striking of terror in any section of the people was defined as act of terrorism.
- The UA (P) Act has widened the definition of terrorism by inserting provision also regarding the monetary security of the nation .
- Under UAPA, the likelinessof a threat is suffice to constitute the offence.
- The likelihood of causing terror in the people or any section of the people by using bombs, dynamite, or explosive substances, or inflammable substances, or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisonous, or noxious gases or other chemicals, or any other substance of a hazardous nature will constitute a terrorist activity defined under Section 15.
Reasons for misuse and solutions
- Vague and Uncertainty of words
- Vague expressions like ‘bring into hatred or contempt’, ‘maintenance of harmony between different religious groups’ or ‘likely to cause disharmony or hatred or ill-will’, or ‘annoyance to the public’.
- These expressions are difficult to define and imperfectly applied to different situations.
- Concepts like ‘defence of India’, ‘security of India’, ‘security of the State’ and ‘relations of India with foreign powers’, in Section 3 of the Act, are uncertain and not-definite.
- Narrow construction by courts
- In order to deal with vagueness and uncertainty, courts must arrive at a concept a narrower construction of these words.
- Restricted application by Investigation agencies
- While applying strong laws, care must be taken to restrict their application to as few situations as possible.
- The law enforcement agency must use these laws for the exact purpose and in line with the exact intention of the Legislature while it made the law.
- Differentiate between violence and terror
- As per the present definition attached to Section 15 of the UA (P) Act, the likelihood of striking terror in the people also form part of terrorism.
- Every act of criminal activity cannot be stretched into the realm of terrorism.
- Agencies must invoke general law to deal incidents of violence.
- UA (P) Act has to be invoked only to the genuine terror cases.
- Sensitivity training of investigating agencies to increase the awareness about the real purport of the law.