Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act
|The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967|
|Parliament of India|
|Citation||Act No. 37 of 1967|
|Enacted by||Parliament of India|
|Assented to||30 December 1967|
|1. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1969 (24 of 1969).|
2. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1972 (31 of 1972).
|Status: In force|
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is an Indian law aimed at prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
The National Integration Council appointed a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation to look into, the aspect of putting reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The agenda of the NIC limited itself to communalism, casteism and regionalism and not terrorism. Pursuant to the acceptance of recommendations of the Committee, the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 was enacted to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The BJP led NDA government claimed that in order to implement the provisions of 1963 Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Bill was introduced in the Parliament. However, the provisions of the UAPA Act contravenes the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Pursuant to the acceptance by Government of a unanimous recommendation of the Committee on National Integration and Regionalism appointed by the National Integration Council, the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, was enacted empowering Parliament to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, on the:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression;
- Right to Assemble peaceably and without arms; and
- Right to Form Associations or Unions.
The object of this bill was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. The bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and received the assent of the President on 30 December 1967. The Amending Acts are as follows:
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1969
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1972
- The Delegated Legislation Provisions (Amendment) Act, 1986
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2012
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019
This last Amendment was enacted after POTA was withdrawn by the Parliament. However, in the Amendment Act in 2004, most of provisions of POTA were re-incorporated. In 2008, after Mumbai attacks, it was further strengthened. The most recent amendment has been done in 2019. According to the statement of objects and reasons, the Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to make it more effective in preventing unlawful activities, and meet commitments made at the Financial Action Task Force (an intergovernmental organization to combat money laundering and terrorism financing). In July 2019,the ambit of UAPA was expanded. It was amended allowing the government to designate an individual as a terrorist without trial. The previous versions of the Bill allowed for only groups to be designated as terrorists.
Mechanism of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019
For prosecution under section 13 of the UAPA, the permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) is required. However, for prosecution under sections 16,17 and 18, the permission of the respective State government is required. Section 25 allows the NIA to seize property it considers to be proceeds of terrorism, with the written consent of the Director General of Police (DGP) of the State. However, it is possible for the NIA officer to obtain the consent of the DGP of the NIA thus bypassing the State DGP Police normally have 60 to 90 days to investigate a case and submit a chargesheet failing which the accused may obtain default bail. However, under the UAPA, this pre-chargesheet time is extended to 180 days. Further, normal bail rules do not apply to an accused under 43(d)5 of the UAPA.
While the Government claimed that Bill would give it power to probe terror attacks on India, the Opposition parties in the Lok Sabha termed it as draconian. The Opposition claimed that the Bill did not contain any provisions to prevent misuse. Specifically, the power to designate an individual as a terrorist before being proven guilty by trial, was criticised. Critics of the UAPA consider the definitions of "terrorist", "like to threaten" and "likely to strike terror" to be very broad and open to misuse by the police as the burden of proof of innocence is on the accused. The example of Gaur Chakraborty among others is cited wherein he spent 7 years in prison during trial only to be acquitted of all charges, wherein the imprisonment during trial itself amounted to punishment.
As part of the K. G. Kannabiran Lectures on Law, Justice and Human Rights, Senior Advocate Mihir Desai in a lecture titled, "The Problem Of Preventive Detention in India", delivered on 23 November 2020, stated
"Preventive detention laws and special legislations like UAPA -- anti-terror laws as they are called -- allow the state to carve out exception for its own lawlessness. These are the laws which permit the state to claim that we are governed by the rule of law and on the other hand pass such legislations which violate the rule of law altogether. These are the laws which go against the basic tenets of the constitution, such as freedom, equality, right to life, liberty etc. It therefore becomes important to look at these laws which gives an exceptional power to the state over citizens -- to arrest them, to detain them, to charge them with offences which otherwise they may not be able to charge them with, keep them behind bars for years together, and also for ensuring that dissent in all forms is crushed."
On 25th July, 2021, Justice Aftab Alam, former Supreme Court judge spoke on a webinar titled "Discussion On Democracy, Dissent and Draconian Law – Should UAPA & Sedition Have A Place In Our Statute Books?". In the discussion, he called UAPA a "draconian law" and said that it was the caused the death of Father Stan Swamy without a trial. Stan Swamy was an activist that was charged with UAPA for his alleged role in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence and links to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and he later died in prison due to COVID-19. Alam further stated that UAPA has a realistic conviction rate of 2%. He further stated that this law can lead to situations where case may fail but the accused would have been incarcerated for 8 to 12 years. He said in such cases, the case may have no legs to stand on but the accused has suffered and he concluded that in such cases the process becomes the punishment.
Notable arrests made under the Act
Between 2016 to 2018, 3005 cases were registered under UAPA and 3,974 have been arrested.
|Kobad Ghandy||Sedition, UAPA;||2009||Acquitted in 2016|
|Arun Ferreira||Human Rights Activist||2007; Rearrested 2018||Acquitted - 2012;|
|Binayak Sen||Doctor and Human rights activist|||
|Gaur Chakraborty||Incarcerated for 7 years||Accused of involvement in terrorist activity and member of banned organisation||2009||Acquitted of charges in 2016|
|Thirumurugan Gandhi||Human Rights Activist, founder - May 17 Movement||||2018|
|G.N. Saibaba||Scholar, writer, human rights activist and professor||Sentence to life for having Maoist link.||2017|
|Sudhir Dhawale,||Dalit Rights Activist||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Mahesh Raut||Tribal Rights Activist||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Shoma Sen||Rights Activist/ Professor||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Surendra Gadling||Dalit and tribal rights lawyer||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Rona Wilson||Secretary - Committee for Release of Political Prisoners||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Sudha Bharadwaj||Trade Unionist/Civil Rights Activist||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Varavara Rao||Activist/Poet||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018||Granted bail on medical grounds|
|Vernon Gonsalves||trade unionist, activist and academician||Accused in 2007 for Naxalite links and in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2007 & 2018|
|Gautam Navlakha||Human Rights Activist/Journalist||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.||2018|
|Akhil Gogoi||Peasant leader/ RTI Activist||For CAA-NRC Protests||2019||Acquitted in 2021|
|Anand Teltumbde||Civil Rights Activist/Scholar||2020|
|Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar||Student Activists||||2020|
|Sharjeel Imam||Activist||Seditious speech during anti CAA protests in Delhi||2020|
|Umar Khalid||Human Rights Activist||Accused in Delhi Riots||2020|
|Stan Swamy||Jesuit priest, tribals rights activist||Accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence||October 2020||Died during incarceration - 2021|
|Ishrat Jahan||Congress Councillor, Delhi||Anti-CAA protests,||February 2020|
|Siddique Kappan||Journalist||Arrested on his way to report on the death of a Dalit teenager||October 2020|
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- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967— Updated text of the Act at India Code
- Sr Adv Mihir Desai: The Problem of Preventive Detention in India