Security Issues

UAPA and The Concerns

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), India’s anti-terror law, has been abused and turned into a tool of terror. In recent years, there have been two instances of this misuse. Muhammad Manan Dar, a young Kashmiri photojournalist, was arrested and imprisoned in 2021 for using his camera to document the daily lives of ordinary Kashmiris. Another journalist, Sidheeque Kappan, was charged a year ago with participating in a riot-instigating plot in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh.

Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • Background: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, enacted in 1967, is an anti-terrorism law in India.
  • The purpose of UAPA is to prevent unlawful activities that endanger India’s sovereignty and integrity.
  • Amendments: Since its inception, UAPA has been revised several times, with each revision making the law more stringent. Until 2004, “illegal” activities referred to actions involving secession and territorial cession. Terrorist acts were added to the list of offences following the 2004 amendment.
  • Provisions: The UAPA allows individuals and organisations to be designated as “terrorists,” and allows for their arrest and detention without trial for up to 180 days.
  • Criticisms: UAPA has been criticised for being used to suppress political opposition and stifle dissent. Critics argue that the law is too broad and vague, allowing for misuse and abuse.

Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA)

  • Overview: TADA was an anti-terrorism law in India that was passed in 1985 and remained in effect until 1995. It was enacted to strengthen India’s legal framework for dealing with terrorist activities.
  • Provisions: TADA authorised the detention of suspects without charge for up to 180 days. It also permitted the establishment of special courts to hear cases involving terrorism, as well as the admissibility of confessions made to a police officer. TADA also made certain activities, such as illegal arms trade, financing terrorism, and undermining India’s sovereignty, punishable as terrorist acts.
  • TADA was also chastised for its ambiguous and broad definition of terrorism, which enabled the targeting of political dissidents.
  • TADA was repealed in 1995 after it was determined to be incompatible with the Indian Constitution, democratic principles, and the rule of law. The law was repealed in 2002 and replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was also criticised for its draconian provisions and abuse by law enforcement agencies.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2004 (POTA)

  • The goal is to give the government legal tools to combat terrorism and punish those who support or participate in terrorist activities.
  • Important Provisions: Individuals suspected of terrorism-related activities have broad investigative and prosecutorial powers. Suspects may be detained without charge for up to 180 days. Confessions given to police officers used as evidence in court
  • Criticism: The possibility of abuse and infringement on civil liberties. It has the potential to be used to target religious and ethnic minorities. It has the potential to be used to silence political dissent.
  • The United Progressive Alliance government repealed it in 2004, citing concerns about misuse and the potential for human rights violations.
  • POTA provisions were incorporated into the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which is still in effect in India today.

Worrying statistics

  • UAPA has one of the worst prosecution success rates.
  • According to a 2022 PUCL report, less than 3% of UAPA arrests resulted in convictions between 2015 and 2020.
  • According to the report, only 1,080 of the 4,690 people detained under the UAPA between 2018 and 2020 were granted bail.
  • Unlike TADA and POTA, UAPA has never been reviewed by the courts. Its repeated abuse taints our democracy.
  • Some of the major concerns about UAPA Misuse include: Authorities have been accused of misusing the UAPA to target human rights defenders, activists, and dissenters. According to critics, the act has been used to stifle free speech and to suppress any form of peaceful protest.
  • Lack of accountability: The UAPA allows for the designation of an individual or organisation as a terrorist entity without providing adequate means for challenge or appeal, which many argue violates natural justice principles.
  • Vagueness: The definitions of “terrorist acts” under the UAPA are broad and vague, and can be interpreted in a way that violates free speech and assembly, opening the door to abuse.
  • Bail restrictions: The UAPA contains provisions that make it difficult for people charged under the act to obtain bail because it requires the accused to demonstrate their innocence, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused.
  • Excessive punishment: The UAPA imposes harsh penalties, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, for terrorism-related offences, which many argue are disproportionate and violate human rights.

Why UAPA is necessary?

  • Investigative tools: The UAPA gives the government investigative and prosecutorial tools to investigate and prosecute individuals and organisations involved in terrorist activities.
  • Special courts to conduct trials: It allows for the establishment of special courts to conduct trials in terrorism-related cases and provides for harsh punishment for terrorism-related offences. It also gives the government the authority to designate individuals or organisations as terrorist entities and freeze their assets.
  • The act is a necessary measure to maintain sovereignty and integrity by combating not only terrorism but also other forms of illegal activity such as organised crime, money laundering, and trafficking. It is regarded as a necessary measure to preserve the nation’s sovereignty and integrity, as well as to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
  • To strike a balance between national security and civil liberties: It is necessary to strike a balance between national security and civil liberties protection. The act has the potential to be an effective tool in the fight against terrorism if it is implemented fairly and justly, and its provisions are not used to stifle legitimate forms of dissent or activism.

@the end

Concerns about the UAPA highlight the need for a balanced approach to fighting terrorism, one that protects national security while also protecting fundamental rights and freedoms.

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