Both sides of the UAPA Act

The unlawful activities prevention act,1967 is an act to prevent terrorist activities. It gives the central government powers to declare individuals and associations terrorist by nature. The act has been amended in 2004 and 2019, adding declaration of organisations and individuals as terrorist, respectively.

Recently, few students of Delhi were imprisoned for a year with respect to alleged violence in the Delhi riots last year. They were released soon. But this brings us to the discussion of the immense powers vested under the act to the government. It’s draconian laws are criticised but one must understand that nothing is above national security. Even a slight doubt can’t be left out.

Right to protest is protected flowing from article 19(1)(b), as per Anita thakur case, 2016. The rationale behind the act outsmarts the criticism of the act. The core idea is to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country. It was initially promulgated to curb secessionist activities in states like Nagaland and Tamil Nadu in 1960s. This law gives immense powers to agencies of the government of search, seizure and detention under section 43 A and 43 B.

This is justified according to doctrine of pith and substance where the bigger picture is considered while deciding on striking off a part of the legislation. Before the act was implemented, the words sovereignty and integrity of India were added in article 19(2) as an exception to freedom of speech. This paved way for the UAPA Act in 1967.

Even countries like USA, Israel, in Europe have laws that label individuals as terrorist based on data. Such steps are strong measures towards security and so are obvious to appear harsh on the outside. The act of uapa has no provision of anticipatory bail as it presumes the accused guilty on basis of evidence. Secret witnesses are allowed under section 44. Section 43D of the act mandates that an accused can be in police custody for more than 30 days and in judicial custody for more than 180 days, without a chargesheet.

Wide powers to police for search, seizure are violative of fundamental right under article 21 as said in k. Puttaswamy Vs UOI case. A data deficit exists on part is NCRB based on race, religion, caste, gender to know who all are targeted or not. Conviction rate is as low as 2.2%. frivolous charges based on revengeful accusations must be avoided. Pre trial imprisonment affects the right of accused of Audi aleram partem.

The recent case of Gautam naulakha Vs NIA of 12 may, 2021 states that police custody may not be limited to 15/30 days and is valid under the act section 43(D)(2)(b).

The UAPA Act is surrounded by controversies many times. One must understand the seriousness of the issue of national security. No other right can undermine the standards set by the State to protect its citizens. Therefore, the law must be used judiciously and scarcely but can’t be done away with.

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