Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

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:

  1. Freedom of Speech and Expression;
  2. Right to Assemble peaceably and without arms; and
  3. 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:

  1. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1969
  2. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1972
  3. The Delegated Legislation Provisions (Amendment) Act, 1986
  4. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004
  5. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008
  6. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2012
  7. 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This last Amendment was enacted after POTA was withdrawn by the Parliament.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.

In a ruling passed on 1 February 2021, the Supreme Court of India ruled that bail could be granted to accused if the right to speedy trial was violated.

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.

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