About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. The Act makes it a crime to support any secessionist movement or to support claims by a foreign power to what India claims as its territory.
The UAPA, framed in 1967, has been amended twice since: first in 2008 and then in 2012.
The law is contested for few draconian provisions. The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political protest. It empowers the government to declare an organization as ‘terrorist’ and ban it. Mere membership of such a proscribed organization itself becomes a criminal offence.
It allows detention without a charge sheet for up to 180 days and police custody can be up to 30 days. It creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is out of the question. It creates a presumption of guilt for terrorism offences merely based on the evidence allegedly seized. It authorizes the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings).
Interestingly, the Union Home Ministry has banned the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for promoting terrorism and radicalizing and recruiting youth for terrorist activities in India in the name of ‘freedom of Kashmir’.
At present, a Bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the UAPA Act. The Union Home Minister, Amit Shah said that the bill will align the domestic law with international obligations.
The international obligations call for making the laws more humanistic. This shows that the amendments in the UAPA Act are going to change its draconian nature. This further authenticates how the present Union government is trying to win the trust of its critics. If the amendments make the law lenient, it will be a great step towards ending the trust deficit between the government and its critics who label it as ‘Fascist’. But it is also noteworthy to mention that the leniency may lead to an increased number of violent protests if not executed properly.