Q) Analyse the recent amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and discuss why it has been opposed by the human rights organisations.
Why this Question?
Issue of current importance.
Key demand of the Question
One has to analyse critically how UAPA grants greater powers to the state and has fewer safeguards for individual rights.
Analyse – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.
Briefly introduce the UAPA, 1967.
In the first part, discuss the recent amendments to the UAPA, 1967.
In the next part, explain why it has been opposed by human rights organisations.
Conclude with a way forward.
The Government in 2019 amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) 1967 that provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities among other things. The amendment gives the government the power to designate individuals as terrorists. It empowers the Director General of NIA to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency. Also, now the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above have the power to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.
Significance of the Amendment
- India faces one of the highest threats of terrorism in the world and therefore its counter-terrorism mechanism must be stringent.
- Designating individuals as terrorists would help in making strong preventive mechanisms.
- It will also help in curbing lone wolf attacks which are carried on by individuals who are not part of any group.
- It aligns the domestic laws with the international obligations as mandated in several conventions and resolutions by the UNSC.
- The previous procedure of getting approval by the state for seizure of properties led to delays in investigation of crucial cases.
- Investigation by officers of Inspector rank would solve the human resource crunch in the NIA.
Concerns related to the Amendment
- It has a large potential of misuse due to the vague definition of terrorist under the UAPA. Moreover, experiences of Anti-terror laws in India such as POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) reveals that they are often misused and abused.
- It violates certain principles of human rights as the state gives itself more powers vis-a-vis individual liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
- Bypassing the state police is an attack on the federal structure of India.
- Some experts feel that designating individuals as terrorists is unnecessary when they are already being prosecuted for the crime.
- Making sure that the amendment is followed in the letter and spirit to avoid any misuse.
- Setting up of a review committee to examine and supervise the process of designating individuals as terrorists.
- Checking of the arbitrariness and subjectivity by the judiciary under the judicial review.
- Judiciary should follow the fundamental principle of fair procedure for cases under right to appeal.
- Strict punishments for those misusing the law for any reason.
- 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.