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The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967 (UAPA) And It's Analysis

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention)Act, 1967 is a law aimed at the prevention of unlawful activities association in India. Its main objective was to give powers to central institutions for dealing with directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. It is the primary counter terror law in India. The act provides the power to the government to deal with illegal activities which undermines the integrity and sovereignty of India.

In the late 1960s, the Central Government was considering a stringent law against calls for secession in the mid-1960s. in 1967, the Naxalbari incident imparted a sense of urgency and UAPA was passed in December 1967. The UAPA act also defines the term terrorist gang and gives arbitrary power to the government. It is considered one of the stringent laws in India. It applies to the territorial extent of India. The UAPA authorizes the govt. to ban unlawful organizations and terrorist organizations, which a subject to Judicial review.

Why UAPA was enacted

When the Constitution was formed, Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provided the freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and association. However, it was also necessary to put some reasonable restrictions on our freedom of speech for the well-being of public order. Therefore, the 1st Amendment amended Article 19 to add the word 'reasonable' before restrictions.

During the Indo-China war of 1962, many communist parties were protesting against the government and some of them supported the Chinese, giving secession threats and participating in many anti-national protests. To curb this menace, the Committee on National Integration and Regionalism was appointed by the National Integration Council. The council recommended further restrictions on fundamental rights in 1963.

Thus, the 16th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1963 was enacted, empowering the parliament to impose, by law, and put reasonable restrictions on Article 19. The bill was passed by both houses of parliament and enacted on 30th December 1967. With this amendment, the Indian state could now declare associations that sought secession from India as 'unlawful'. In this way, UAPA was enacted and gave power to the govt. to impose all-Indian bans on an association.

Some important amendment in UAPA

The 1st amendment to UAPA came in 1969, then another in 1986. The UAPA act has been amended from time to time. After the 2001 attack on Parliament, the NDA govt. introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act [POTA]. The Constitutional validity of POTA was challenged in the 'PUCL v. UOI' case (AIR 2003 SUPREME COURT 2363), where it was held as constitutional. The opposition opposed POTA, stating it was a draconian law.

However, in 2004, POTA was repealed by the UPA government. In 2004, they amended the UAPA act, making substantial changes to the definition of 'unlawful activity' by including the definitions of 'terrorist act' and 'terrorist organization' from the repealed POTA.

They also introduced the concept of 'terrorist gang'. Following the 26/11 attack in Mumbai on December 17, 2008, another amendment to UAPA was introduced, which included more provisions similar to POTA regarding the maximum period in police custody, incarceration without a chargesheet, and restrictions on bail, making it more stringent law.

In 2012, the UPA government amended the UAPA again and further expanded the definition of 'terrorist act' to include offences that threaten the country's economy and security to fulfill FATF commitments. Further in 2019, the UAPA was amended again.The 2019 amendment allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists without a trial.

The provision of Bail in UAPA

According to Section 43(d)(5) of the UAPA, it makes it very difficult to seek bail. Section 43(d)(5) of the Act prevents the release of any accused person on bail if the police file a chargesheet believing on reasonable grounds that accusations against such person are prima facie true. The section grants very little room for judicial reasoning and almost makes it difficult to grant bail because it requires the court to assess guilt only by looking at the chargesheet prepared by the NIA.

However, the court, in many instances, has granted bail to accused in some cases. For instance, the Apex Court has granted bail to an accused in the Bhima Koregaon incident. The court followed the precedent of the case 'Shaheen Welfare Association v. UOI', 1996, in which the court had held that stringent bail conditions in special legislation could be justified only if a swift trial took place. If there is a delay, it will be in contravention of Article 21.

UAPA and it's analysis

The data published by NCRB shows an increase in the cases of UAPA. The UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967) has seen a rise of 23 percent, according to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Sunday. The Ministry of Home Affairs stated in Parliament that 3,998 cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were pending investigation by the end of 2021. In 2021, 1,621 people were arrested under the UAPA. Sixty-two people were convicted. It is not clear from the data when exactly those convicted were arrested.

According to the data published by NCRB in its annual report 'Crime in India' for 2019, the number of cases registered under UAPA increased from 897 to 1948. There has been over a 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 compared to 2015, data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Lok Sabha.

According to data recently presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Rajya Sabha, only 2.2% of cases registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 between the years 2016-2019 ended in convictions by court. The data quoted by ministery was from the NCRB report,2019.

Although UAPA is criticized by many civil societies as it is unethical to constrain freedom to dissent, there must be some law to deal with terror. One of the drawbacks of these laws is that sometimes it acts as a tool to stifle criticism when misused. The nature of the law should be fair, reasonable, and non-arbitrary. So, although this kind of law is necessary to some extent to protect the sovereignty, security, and integrity of the nation, the government has to be cautious when applying UAPA charges.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Mahashweta Bhattacharya
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Authentication No: AP410343315656-12-0424

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