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Unravelling the Reality of TADA, POTA And UAPA,1967

In recent decades, terrorism has become an increasingly visible global problem, which is a major threat to international security and stability. The rise of terrorism and its impact on global politics, economy, and society has become a major concern for the world community, and understanding the phenomenon of terrorism is an essential aspect of our academic and intellectual growth. Such acts of terrorism have resulted in countless deaths of innocent victims, extensive damage to property and infrastructure, and disrupted social, economic and political structures.

Terrorism can be defined as the use of violence or the threat of violence to achieve political or ideological goals. The tactics used by terrorist organizations range from suicide bombings and hijackings to cyber-attacks and propaganda campaigns.

Governments around the world have taken a variety of measures to combat terrorism. With government of India being no exception has also enacted various laws to counter terrorism such as the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). These are the primary anti-terrorism laws that India has enacted.

It is essential to examine these laws effectiveness in combating terrorism, as well as their impact on civil liberties and human rights, given their contentious nature. To form better perspective towardsthe ongoing discussion regarding the appropriate balance between civil liberties and security in the context of India's anti-terrorism laws by shedding light on this complex issue.

Need Of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

Unlawful activities prevention act commonly known as UAPA was introduced because of the heightened risk to the sovereignty and integrity of India in the1960s. There were many threats to integrity and sovereignty of India, on one hand in 1962 then DMK leader CN Annadurai in his Rajya sabha speech proposed for Tamil Nadu to be a separate country and on the other hand India faced external aggression from china on its border, although because of the war with china the DMK leader CN Annadurai dropped the demand for separate country, but this situation posed a question.

India already had emergency provisions to deal with external aggressions challenging the sovereignty and integrity of the country, but the law enforcement agencies of our country were not equipped with proper tools and powers to face the threats from within the country.

There were demands of cession from all over the country in 1960s, to deal with this situation the government on the recommendation of committee formed by National integration council brought the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act 1963, which imposed some reasonable restriction on fundamental rights:
  1. Right to freedom of speech and expression,
  2. Right to assemble and right to form associations and unions.
With the help of this the UAPA act was introduced in parliament in 1963 but due to change of government and other reasons the act came into being only in 1967.

National investigation agency (NIA) is the enforcement body of this act. Indian state could now declare associations that sought secession from India as 'unlawful'. Originally the UAPA was introduced to ban unlawful activity, unlawful activity was that action by an individual/organization that was done with the intent to bring cession or to disrupt and question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

This law provided the NIA the power to deal with internal activities by organization and individual that posed threats to the country. With changing situation in country the law was constantly amended to keep up its pace with it.

UAPA, 1967 was not the first security law and not the last. There was already preventive detention act (1950-1969), and armed forces special powers act (1958-now). The UAPA adopted many of its provision from Terrorist and disruptive activities (prevention) act which was in force between 1985 and 1995, and prevention of terrorism act (POTA), which was in force between 2002 and 2004.

But both these laws faced criticism due to their misuse and were eventually repealed due to controversies related to their application. It is said that through the UAPA (amendment), 2004 POTA was reintroduced into the country. Many provision of POTA were added into UAPA through this amendment.

Here's a brief overview of some of the significant amendments made to the UAPA Act:

  • Amendment in 2004: The UAPA was amended in 2004 to expand the definition of "terrorist acts" and "terrorist organizations" and to provide for the freezing of the assets of such organizations. The amendment also added provisions for the detention of suspects and increased the duration of their detention for questioning.
  • Amendment in 2008: The UAPA was amended again in 2008 to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals for terrorism-related offenses. The amendment allowed for the interception of electronic communications, strengthened provisions for the freezing of assets, and increased the punishment for terrorist activities.
  • Amendment in 2012: The UAPA was amended in 2012 to include provisions for the investigation of offenses committed outside India by Indian citizens or entities. The amendment also expanded the definition of "membership" of a terrorist organization.
  • Amendment in 2019: The UAPA was amended again in 2019 to allow the central government to designate an individual as a "terrorist" based on suspicion or allegations of involvement in terrorist activities. The amendment also allowed the government to ban an organization based on its alleged involvement in terrorism.
Despite these amendments, the law has been involved in disputes for its misuse by the authorities. It has been misused to oppress minorities like Muslims, women, Dalits, and political leaders.

This is due to controversial provisions such as:
  1. Vague definition of terrorism: UAPA has a broad definition of a terrorist act, which makes it easier for the authorities to use it as they please. The definition is different from the one suggested by the United Nations. This vagueness has resulted in the unjust custody of individuals, affecting the rights of innocent individuals.
  2. Power to designate individual/organization as a terrorist: Section 15 for organization and section 35 for an individual of the act empower the government to designate an organization and an individual as a terrorist organization or terrorist if it believes that the organization or individual is involved in terrorism. This provision has been controversial because it allows the government to designate organizations and individuals as terrorists without due process, affecting their rights.
  3. Bail provisions: Section 43D of the UAPA Act imposes stringent conditions for bail, including a presumption against bail, and requires the court to be satisfied that the accused is not guilty before granting bail. This provision has been criticized for being too strict and arbitrary, making it difficult for individuals to secure bail even if they are not guilty.
  4. Longer detention period: Under the act, a person could be detained for up to 180 days, which could be extended up to 2 years, a departure from the usual 90-day detention period provided for under Indian law. The longer detention period was allowed to provide investigating agencies with more time to gather evidence and build a case against the accused. This was widely criticized as a violation of the fundamental right to liberty.
Stan Swamy, the oldest person to be held by anti-terrorism laws, died in custody, leading to a huge public uproar. Conclusion
India got its independence in 1947 and since then it is involved in constant struggle to protect its sovereignty and integrity. India is capable to protect its border and it has shown this time to time. But then India faced the challenge of cession demands from all over the country and also the emergence of terrorism which caused the lawmakers to think about how to make the law enforcement agencies capable to deal with these issues.

There were no proper laws to deal with terrorism effectively and neutralize the issue. This led to Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 which made possible for Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to be enacted. UAPA was the need of the hour at the time. Although at first this act only dealt with unlawful association but later with changing needs the act was amended to give more and more power and the ambit of the act increased.

The UAPA is considered a comprehensive law that empowers law enforcement agencies to take strong actions against terrorist activities and organizations. However, the Act was criticized for its misuse by the government, and it was eventually allowed to lapse in 1995.

These laws used to do gross violation of human rights and hence were repealed. But there is always need for effective terrorism laws and hence even with so many controversies UAPA is still in force. There are many allegations of violation of human rights and civil liberties of minorities like Muslims, women and children. To curb the unjust use of laws like these which pose greater threat to citizens of the country judiciary needs to be very vigilant.

It is even seen that less than one-third of the cases filed under UAPA results in conviction. Between 2016 and 2019, the period for which UAPA figures have been published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 4,231 First Information Report (FIR) were filed under various sections of the UAPA, of which 112 cases have resulted in convictions.

This shows how little the conviction rate is and how frequently the UAPA is invoked even when there is no case to be made. In conclusion, we do need UAPA and it is essential for security of our country and for that we need better and efficient guidelines to rule out the unjust use of the law as it will be detrimental to basic human rights and can ruin life of innocent citizens.

  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, s 15.
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, s 35.
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, s 43D.

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