Explained: What Is The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act?

Explained: What Is The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act?

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is an essential tool for protecting the security of India. It gives law enforcement the vital tools they need to fight terrorism and other threats to the security of the country.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Saturday, June 15, 2024, 03:53 PM IST
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What is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? | File Photo

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is a significant legislation in India aimed at preventing unlawful activities that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. Enacted initially in 1967, and subsequently amended, the UAPA provides legal framework for dealing with terrorist activities, unlawful associations, and disruptive activities that pose a threat to India's security. This act has evolved over the years to encompass a broader range of activities and to empower law enforcement agencies in combating terrorism and other forms of organized crime.

The UAPA is a crucial legislative tool in India’s efforts to combat terrorism and maintain national security. While it aims to provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary powers to prevent unlawful activities, its implementation and impact on civil liberties have been subjects of intense debate.

As India continues to face evolving threats from terrorism and insurgency, the challenge lies in striking a balance between ensuring national security and upholding fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Efforts to review and amend the UAPA should consider these complexities to ensure that it effectively serves its intended purpose while safeguarding democratic values and human rights

Legislative Background And Evolution

The UAPA was first enacted to empower the central government to deal effectively with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. It underwent substantial amendments over time, especially after significant terrorist incidents that highlighted the need for stringent measures to combat emerging threats. The amendments expanded the scope of unlawful activities to include supporting secessionist movements, promoting enmity between different groups, and engaging in actions prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.

Key Provisions Of UAPA

Under the UAPA, certain organizations can be declared as unlawful by the central government if they indulge in activities that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India. This declaration allows law enforcement agencies to take preventive action against members of such organizations and freeze their assets. The act also empowers authorities to intercept communications and conduct searches without warrant in certain circumstances, which has been a subject of debate regarding its impact on civil liberties.

Objectives And Scope

The primary objective of the UAPA is to strengthen the legal framework for dealing with activities that pose a threat to the security of the country. It aims to prevent unlawful activities by providing law enforcement agencies with tools to investigate, prosecute, and prevent acts of terrorism and insurgency. The act also includes provisions for forfeiture of property derived from unlawful activities and imposes penalties on individuals and organizations found guilty of violating its provisions.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008 | National Portal of India

Controversies And Criticism

Despite its intentions, the UAPA has faced criticism on several fronts. Civil liberties advocates argue that its provisions are too broad and can be used to suppress dissent and political opposition. The act allows for extended periods of detention without filing formal charges, which raises concerns about due process and the rights of the accused. Critics also point out that the act’s definition of “unlawful activities” is vague and can be interpreted subjectively, leading to potential misuse by authorities.

Amendments And Legal Challenges

Over the years, there have been legal challenges to various provisions of the UAPA. Courts have examined issues such as the constitutionality of preventive detention, the admissibility of intercepted communications as evidence, and the scope of the government's powers to declare organizations as unlawful. Amendments to the act have been introduced to address some of these concerns, but debates continue regarding the balance between national security imperatives and civil liberties.

Impact On Civil Society And Human Rights

The implementation of the UAPA has had a significant impact on civil society organizations, activists, and journalists. There have been instances where individuals advocating for the rights of marginalized communities or expressing dissent against government policies have been charged under the act. This has led to concerns about the chilling effect on free speech and the right to protest, particularly in sensitive regions affected by insurgency or communal tensions.

International Comparisons And Cooperation

India’s approach to combating terrorism through legislation like the UAPA reflects global trends in counterterrorism measures. Many countries have enacted similar laws to enhance their capacity to prevent and prosecute terrorist activities. International cooperation in intelligence sharing and law enforcement has also been an important aspect of India’s strategy to combat transnational threats, although differences in legal standards and human rights protections can sometimes complicate such cooperation.

Recent Controversy

The prosecution of Arundhati Roy and Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, the former professor of international law at the Central University of Kashmir, has been approved by Delhi Lt. Governor VK Saxena under section 45 (1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The case number for this case is 258/2010, dated 29.11.2010, under sections 124-A/153A/ 153B/504 and 505 of the IPC and 13 UA (P) Act. The FIR was filed in response to a complaint made by Sushil Pandit on October 28, 2010. Prior to this, the LG had granted sanction under section 196 of CrPC to prosecute the above accused for commission of offenses punishable under Section 153A / 153B and 505 of the IPC in October 2023. Roy and Hussain were purportedly the speakers at a conference held on October 21, 2010, at LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, SAR Geelani (the conference's anchor and prime accused in the Parliament attack case), Arundhati Roy, Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, and Maoist sympathiser Vara Vara Rao were among the speakers who promoted the "separation of Kashmir from India" during the conference.

Yasin Malik and Arundhati Roy

Yasin Malik and Arundhati Roy | X

The complaint filed a complaint under Section 156(3) of CrPC before the MM Court, New Delhi, who disposed of the complaint vide order dated 27.11.2010 with the directions to register a FIR. As a result, a FIR was registered and an investigation was conducted. It was alleged that Geelani and Arundhati Roy strongly propagated that Kashmir was never part of India and that it was forcibly occupied by Armed Forces of India. Records of the same were provided by the complainant.

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