Analysis of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) – By Isha
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is the cornerstone of India’s legislative policy against terrorism. UAPA was enacted with an object to control unlawful activities. It embodies the essence of the Preventive Detection Act which expired in 1969. Over the years the act has gone through several amendments to widen the ambit of its application.
Background of the UAPA
The UAPA was passed in the year 1967. The origin of the act lies in the recommendation of the committee formed by National Integration Council, to look into the issue of ‘National integration and regionalization’.
Based on the recommendations and findings of this committee, the 16th Amendment Act of 1963 was passed that introduced reasonable restrictions on certain fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution namely:
Freedom of speech and expression.
Right to assemble peacefully.
Right to form associations and unions.
In order to implement these restrictions, UAPA was introduced and enacted in the year 1967.
UAPA is an anti terror legislation whose enforcement body is National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is India’s Central counter terrorism agency.
UAPA mainly deals with unlawful activities. The scope of unlawful activities includes: those actions of the individual and organisations which intent to bring cession and disrupt or question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
Since the act has gone through several amendments, increasing the scope of its liability. One such amendment was made in the year 2004, in which the Parliament introduced some dedicated chapters in the act by including punishment for ‘Terrorist Activities’ which was defined in Section 15 under Chapter IV of the act. Interestingly, 2004 was also the year in which the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed. Therefore, prompting many to term the amendment as an attempt to keep the spirit of POTA alive.
Amendment of 2019
Initially, only organisations could be banned or prosecuted for a terrorist act. But after the amendment of 2019, this act would also be applicable on individuals who are involved in the terror related activities. This change in designation of a terrorist can be witnessed in Section 35 & 36 of Chapter VI of the UAPA act.
Under the recent amendment the Government has been given powers to designate an organization as terrorist organisation if;
It commits or participates in acts of terrorism.
Prepares or promotes terrorism.
Otherwise involved in terrorism.
The second and the horrific aspect of this amendment, which makes it even more dreadful is that a person booked under the act can be detained for 6 months (or 180 days) without even filing a charge sheet. In contrast to this, under ordinary criminal law this period is only to 3 months or (90 days) after which the detained person gets a right to bail.
The third aspect of the amendment is that it added 4th Schedule in the UAPA act which empowered the government to brand an individual as a terrorist. Although, the individual has the right to file an objection within 45 days with the Home ministry against such declaration. Also, a review committee will be setup with a retired/sitting judge as its head along with 3 other members and the aggrieved party can file for review to the committee.
This amendment has been several opposed by the opposition and civil society activists. Criticising this amendment, they have raised an objection that this amendment can be highly misused as it gives immense powers to the Government to monitor or curb any type of dissent.
The validity of this amendment has been challenged in a PIL, Sajal Awasthi v. Union of India and the same is pending in the apex court. This PIL mainly seek to struck down and declare Sec 35 and 36 as unconstitutional.