Online Courses (English)
This just in:

State PCS

Daily Updates


Stringent Nature of UAPA

  • 14 Jul 2021
  • 7 min read

Why in News

Recently, the death of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, while in judicial custody, has brought the stringent provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) into the focus.

  • UAPA is the India’s main anti-terrorism legislation, but the law makes it more difficult to obtain bail.
  • This difficulty in obtaining bail is being seen as one of the principal reasons for Fr. Swamy’s death as a prisoner in a hospital and compromises constitutional liberties.

Key Points

  • Background of UAPA:
    • In the mid-1960s, in order to curb the various secession movements, the Government of India considered enacting a stringent law.
    • In March 1967, a peasant uprising in Naxalbari imparted a sense of urgency.
    • On 17th June, 1966, the President had promulgated the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Ordinance.
      • The ordinance intended to “provide for the more effective prevention of unlawful activities of individuals and associations”.
    • After initial resistance from the Parliament (owing to its stringent nature), the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed in 1967.
    • The Act provided for declaring an association or a body of individuals “unlawful” if they indulged in any activity that envisages secession or questions or disclaims the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
    • Prior to the UAPA’s enactment, associations were being declared unlawful under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952.
      • However, the Supreme Court held that the provision on bans was unlawful because there was no judicial mechanism to scrutinise the validity of any ban.
    • Therefore, the UAPA included provisions for a Tribunal which has to confirm within six months the notification declaring an outfit unlawful.
    • After the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, was repealed, the UAPA was expanded to include what would have been terrorist acts in earlier laws.
  • Current Status of the Act:
    • In its present form, the UAPA has been amended in 2004 and 2013, to expand its scope.
    • Expanded Scope of Law:
      • Punishment for terrorist acts and activities,
      • Acts threatening the country’s security, including its economic security (a term that covers fiscal and monetary security, food, livelihood, energy ecological and environmental security),
      • Provisions to prevent the use of funds for terrorist purposes, including money.
    • The ban on organisations was initially for two years, but from 2013, the period of proscription has been extended to five years.
    • Further, the amendments aim to give effect to various anti-terrorism resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and requirements of the Financial Action Task Force.
    • In 2019, the Act was amended to empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists.
  • Modus Operandi of UAPA:
    • Just like other special laws dealing with narcotic drugs and the now-defunct laws on terrorism, the UAPA also modifies the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to give it more teeth. For example,
      • A remand order can be for 30 days instead of the usual 15,
      • Maximum period of judicial custody before the filing of a chargesheet is extendable from the usual 90 days to 180 days.
  • Controversy Regarding UAPA:
    • Vague Definition of Terrorist Act: The definition of a “terrorist act” under the UAPA substantially differs from the definition promoted by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.
      • UAPA, on the other hand, offers an overbroad and ambiguous definition of a “terrorist act” which includes the death of, or injuries to, any person, damage to any property, etc.
    • Denial of Bail: The major problem with the UAPA lies in its Section 43(D)(5), which makes it difficult for any accused person to obtain bail.
      • In case, if police have filed the chargesheet that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true, bail cannot be granted.
      • Further, a Supreme Court judgment on this has clarified that the court considering bail should not examine the evidence too deeply, but must go by the prosecution version based on broad probabilities.
      • Thus, UAPA virtually denies bail, which is a safeguard and guarantee of the constitutional right to liberty.
    • Pendency of Trails: Given the state of justice delivery system in India, the rate of pendency at the level of trial is at an average of 95.5%.
    • State Overreach: It also includes any act that is “likely to threaten” or “likely to strike terror in people”, giving unbridled power to the government to brand any ordinary citizen or activist a terrorist without the actual commission of these acts.
      • It gives the state authority vague powers to detain and arrest individuals who it believes to be indulged in terrorist activities.
    • Undermining Federalism: Some experts feel that it is against the federal structure since it neglects the authority of state police in terrorism cases, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.

Way Forward

  • Drawing the line between individual freedom and state obligation to provide security is a case of classical dilemma.
  • It is up to the state, judiciary, civil society, to strike a balance between constitutional freedom and the imperative of anti-terror activities.

Source: TH

SMS Alerts

Please login or register to view note list


Please login or register to list article as bookmarked


Please login or register to make your note


Please login or register to list article as progressed


Please login or register to list article as bookmarked