The Terrorist Tag: On The Latest Amendments To The NIA Act

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By moderator July 26, 2019 14:29

Terrorism

Terrorism can be defined as “threatened use of violence to frighten a population or government for political, religious, or ideological goals”. Terrorism poses a significant threat to the people of India. Ethno-nationalist terrorism, left-wing terrorism, religious terrorism, and narco-terrorism are some of the types of terrorism found in India.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Amit Shah on July 8, 2019.

The Bill proposes that the central government may designate an individual as terrorist if such person

  • Commits or participates in acts of terrorism

  • Prepares for terrorism

  • Promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism.

Under the Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA) was originally passed in 1967. Eventually, amendments were brought in 2004, 2008,2013.

Some of the features of the Bill

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

  • The Bill adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

  • Act provided that investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above and it additionally empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

  • The UAPA offers an overbroad and ambiguous definition of a ‘terrorist act’ and giving unbridled power to the government to brand any ordinary citizen or activist a terrorist.

  • The Act also interferes with the privacy and liberty of individuals.

  • The Act allows for searches, seizures, and arrests based on the ‘personal knowledge’ of the police officers without a written validation from a superior judicial authority.

How the idea of designating an individual as a terrorist impinges on the fundamental rights of citizens of India/Issues with the recently proposed Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019?

  • The proposed amendments will allow the government to designate an individual as a terrorist and it may appear innocuous but this draconian tag could be misused especially against minorities and raises serious constitutional questions.

  • As said by Amnesty International India, this amendment violates international human rights law and opens the floodgate to harassment of human rights defenders and activists.

  • Parliament must consider whether an individual can be called a ‘terrorist’ prior to conviction in a court of law as there is no set procedure for designating an individual a terrorist.

  • There is no judicial determination and it may render the provision vulnerable to invalidation.

  • Individuals with terrorist tag will be more adversely affected in comparison to those of organizations with terrorist tag.

  • Even after obtaining bail from the courts, individuals may be subjected to arrest and detention;  they may have their travel and movements restricted, besides carrying the taint. This will adversely affect the fundamental rights, in particular, the personal liberty of the citizens.

  • There is no change in the process of getting an entity removed from the list. Just as any organization getting the tag, individuals, too, will have to apply to the Centre to get their names removed.

  • A wrongful designation will cause irreparable damage to a person’s reputation, career, and livelihood.

  • This amendment can harm the human rights defenders working with the poor and marginalized communities and those who criticize government inactions or excesses.

  • Some provision overrides the function of the State government .for example, this act empowers the head of the National Investigation Agency to approve the forfeiture of property of those involved in terrorism.

  • The chances of misuse will be very high as there will be a section allowing NIA Inspectors to investigate terrorism cases, as against a Deputy Superintendent of Police or an Assistant Commissioner.

  • As opposed to the usual 60 to 90 days under criminal law, under UAPA, the police are allowed a time of 180 days for investigating a case. This further allows the police to detain an accused of 6 months at a stretch without producing any evidence against the accused justifying such custody.

  • This amendment will further concentrate disproportionate power with the government to incriminate individuals for being proactive members of the society, ban critical thinking by designating them, terrorists.

  • UAPA has become a tool of repression over the years, – a weapon to keep people entangled in the legal system and place people in jails for as long as the state wants.

 Conclusion

  • States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism must comply with all obligations under international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

  • Terrorism must not be countered at the expense of human rights. The state should consider fundamental rights(personal liberty), provision for judicial review and individual privacy, etc while implementing any law.

  • Eliminate denial of judicial review and excessive discretion under the act in order to realize the personal liberty of all the citizens of modern India etc.

 Source

moderator
By moderator July 26, 2019 14:29