Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967_00.1
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Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967

 

Relevance

  • GS 3: Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism

 

Context

  • Father Stan Swamy died in jail as he could not get bail under the UAPA Act. This brings the Act to attention, again.

 

Key points

  • Stan Swamy was a Jesuit priest, who died waiting for bail for nine months.
  • He was booked by National Investigative Agency (NIA) under UAPA concerning Bhima Koregaon violence.
  • His death has, again, brought the spotlight on the credibility of UAPA.

 

Background of UAPA

  • UAPA, 1967 was enacted to provide prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations.
  • The 1967 version of the Act gave certain powers to the central government to deal with activities that are meant to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • Originally, the act was not a terror law and it became so after the amendment in 2004 when Parliament inserted a chapter to punish terror activities.
  • The act was subsequently amended many times to broaden its scope, the last being the amendment in 2019 when it was decided to include not only certain groups as a terrorist organisation, but also certain individuals as terrorists.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967_50.1

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Importance of UAPA

  • The act forms the foundation of India’s legislative policy against terrorism.
  • It ensures the government’s responsibility towards upholding the security of individuals.
  • It helps in maintaining the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • It puts law enforcement agencies one step ahead of the terrorists. This increases the morale of our security forces.

 

Criticism

  • The act makes bail difficult. Moreover, it extends the pre-charge sheet custody period from 90 days to 180 days.
  • It violates one of our cardinal Fundamental Rights, freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
  • It has a low conviction rate. According to the data of the Home Ministry, only 2.2% of cases registered under the Act led to conviction by courts.
  • It undermines federalism because ‘police’ is a state subject and the act has a limited role of state police.

 

Office of Governor: Issues and Suggestions

 

Way forward

  • The Act should be implemented in letter and spirit to prevent its misuse.
  • There is a need to maintain a balance between the freedom of the individual and national security. Ensuring both is sine-qua-non to India’s democracy.
  • Since the issue is of interpretation of the Act, the role of the judiciary becomes important. Arbitrariness and ulterior motive should be decided from the lens of constitutionalism. Example- Guwahati High Court observed that civil disturbance, which arises out of protests cannot be considered as an act of terror.

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