Interpretation and deconstruction of UAPA(Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) by the Delhi High Court

On 15th June,2021 the Hon’ble Delhi High Court directed the release of three student leaders,namely, Asif Iqbal Tanha,Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita on bail.These leaders were arrested in connection with the North East Delhi riots.

Clearly, freedom is ensuring human morality, which is a conformity even to the spheres of law and politics.For a democracy like ours freedom/liberty is definitely an imperative notion as it is constitutionally guaranteed.Even our judiciary is supposed to hold onto this proposition. And quite frankly the Hon’ble Delhi High Court did give leverage to the right party.The jubilation on the liberty of the said three individuals must not deflect us from the modern day veracity that state induced distress has become a daily affair. 

In light of the same,the judgement of Delhi High Court has assumed importance because the sanctions were under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA),1967. UAPA is usually condemned because it is considered obverse to the cardinal principles of constitutional freedom to dissent,rule of law and fair trial.

According to Section 43(D)(5) of UAPA,”no person accused of an offence shall not be released on bail or his own bond if the court…is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true”.

The Court has therefore dismantled this provision as it is very opportune for any political body to levie accusations against its political rival.It is an unfortunate reality that the present democratic model of our country believes in keeping the protestors of its model in constant anticipation of danger.In some cases,this model doesn’t think twice before spreading the web of either IPC or provisions of UAPA  even for a normal act. Incidentally,Disha Ravi, Amulya Leona and many more have been the sufferers of the same.

No individual can be charged under the false tag of terrorism. The bail court is bound to properly analyse the contentions in the charge sheet and check if the said allegation actually formulates an offence. And that’s what the Delhi High Court did and stated, “Foisting extremely grave and serious penal provisions engrafted in sections 15, 17 and 18 UAPA frivolously upon people, would undermine the intent and purpose of the Parliament in enacting a law that is meant to address threats to the very existence of our Nation. Wanton use of serious penal provisions would only trivialise them.”

The Court also urged monition in use of the term for ‘conventional offences’. The definition of ‘terrorist act’ in the UAPA is ‘wide and somewhat vague’ and cannot be permitted to be casually applied to criminal acts that fall squarely within the definition of conventional offences.

Although there are arguments by the Delhi police that the terrorist clause in UAPA can be invoked, not just for the ‘intent to threaten the unity and integrity’ but the ‘likelihood to threaten the unity and integrity’.However,court rejected this analysis and said that arresting/punishing people for the clause can threaten the sacrosanct principle of freedom.  

The Delhi High Court’s judgement is worth lauding as it carries a lot of educative value.And definitely sets precedents for the legal and political fraternity. 


1.Devangana Kalita Vs.State of Delhi NCT

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