The Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill 2019 has been passed after days of deadlock between the government and the opposition parties in Rajya Sabha. The bill gives Central government the POWER to designate/tag/label individuals as terrorists on the basis of suspicion without following any formal judicial process.
When designated as terrorists an individual can appeal to Union home secretary, who has to dispose of the plea within 40 days. If the plea is rejected, the individual can again appeal to the home secretary, who can take 30 days to decide on plea.
In addition to this they can also approach a review committee comprising of a retired or serving judge and at least two retired secretaries of the government. If again the plea is rejected then the individual can appeal in the court. Easily 80-85 days will pass by following the procedure mentioned above. During this period the individual will be announced as terrorist on the government gazette. Imagine the amount of mental burden and physical pressure on that individual. He will be facing backlash from the people of his country before even formal judicial process is carried out and the judgement is passed by the Judge. In my view, seeing the current trends, the individual can even be a victim of mob lynching.
Narendra Modi led BJP government said they introduced this bill because existing UAPA act was not stringent enough to deal with persons involved in activities related to terrorism. However this is not true.
As section 16 of the existing bill clearly states :
(1) Whoever commits a terrorist act shall,
(a) if such act has resulted in the death of any person, be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine;
(b) in any other case, be punishable I with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 38 to 48 of the existing UAPA 1967 also deals with individuals who are associated with terrorist Activities and the laws were very rigid to deal with the same.
UAPA Bill 2019, appears to be an upgrade of TADA AND POTA
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act lapsed in 1995 and Prevention of Terrorist Activities act was repealed in 2004.
Both the acts have been victims of enormous criticism as they gave government agencies massive powers to associate nearly anybody with terrorist activities, jail them for an excessive period, civil rights were being infringed and legal proceedings were carried out with zero transparency.
Congress MP Manish Tiwari in Look Sabha highlighted the statistics of POTA. As per him 4349 cases were registered, 1031 people arrested and only 13 were convicted.
Some light was thrown by him on the statistics of TADA as well stating that conviction rate was as low as 1.11%
Home minster Amit Shah said ‘Congress repealed POTA in 2004 due to vote bank.’
Unfortunately Amit Shah is wrong about the history of his own party as Former deputy Prime minister LK Advani himself said POTA was misused and a review committee was set up under Justice Saharia.
UAPA Bill 2019 is following the lines of lapsed bills and with the course of time we will see that whether history repeats itself or there is something new in the box.
Vanshika Jain is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in Amity University