By Constitutional  Conduct  Group

Dear Citizens of India,

We are a group of retired officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As members of the Constitutional Conduct Group, we believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution and in safeguarding its values.

We are writing this in the matter of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) that violates the Constitutional guarantees of citizens’ fundamental rights. Though this law has been in existence in India’s statute books for over five decades, the harsh amendments it has gone through in  recent years has made it draconian, repressive, and amenable to gross misuse at the hands of ruling politicians and the police. Typical of such misuse are the cases of the three anti-CAA student protestors – Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha – who were arrested under UAPA without any valid grounds but were recently granted bail by the Delhi High Court in a detailed and unprecedented order.

On 9 March 2021, the Union Minister of State for Home, Shri G. Kishan Reddy, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, admitted to the uncommon overuse of the UAPA. He confirmed that 1948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1226 cases across the country in 2019, which showed a 72% increase as compared to 2015.  The following figures will show the increase in cases and arrests between 2015 and 2019:

2015: 897 cases with 1128 arrests

2016: 922 cases with 999 arrests

2017: 901 cases with 1554 arrests

2018: 1182 cases with 1421 arrests

2019: 1226 cases with 1948 arrests

2019 saw the highest number of arrests in the country, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh (498) Manipur (386), Tamil Nadu (308), Jammu & Kashmir (227) and Jharkhand (202).

Despite the large number of arrests under the UAPA, the number of prosecutions and convictions shows a steep decline. The Government of India has admitted that a mere 2.2% of the cases registered between 2016 and 2019 resulted in conviction. We may conclude that the vast majority of the arrests under UAPA were made on specious grounds just to spread fear and muzzle dissent.

The UAPA has a chequered history. This legislation, first passed in 1967 on the recommendations of the National Integration Council to combat communalism, casteism, regionalism and linguistic chauvinism and to deal with associations engaged in secessionist activities, has changed colour over time and has now become a statute that has created new categories of offences and punishments.

The UAPA was not used extensively prior to the last decade as the Government of India had, meanwhile, enacted preventive detention laws such as the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA-1971), the National Security Act (NSA-1980), the Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA-1987)   and The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA-2002). But after the 9/11 terror attack on the USA, the UN Security Council passed a resolution asking national governments to enact countrywide anti-terror laws. The Government of India complied by passing the UAPA Amendment Act, 2004, carrying stringent provisions to suppress terrorism.

However, the Government of India seriously departed from the principles of criminal jurisprudence and from the provisions of the Constitution when the UAPA (Amendment) Act, 2008 was codified after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. This was done during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Successive UPA and NDA Union governments which have been or are in power are responsible for the extreme stringency of the UAPA. In 2008, the UPA government made bail provisions much more stringent, increased the pre-charge detention period from 90 days to 180 days and, most damagingly, placed the burden of proof on the accused. In 2019, the NDA government further amended the UAPA to allow individuals, not merely organisations, to be designated terrorist. This amendment also gave unfettered and autocratic powers to the executive, in particular the National Investigation Agency (NIA), to enter any State and arrest any person. Though some voices of protest were raised when these amendments were made, most political parties supported the move. For the UPA members or any other party to act outraged now is, therefore, disingenuous.

The most shocking of the arrests under the UAPA have been of persons accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case. Several well regarded activists who have fought throughout their lives for the rights of tribal people and other oppressed groups have been arrested as terrorists and, even today, languish in jail. . The names of those arrested are well known – Sudha Bhardwaj, Rona Wilson, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao, to name a few.  And, of course, Father Stan Swamy – an 84 year old Jesuit priest – suffering from Parkinson’s and other ailments, who was not granted bail despite repeated requests and eventually died while in custody.

Former judge of the Patna High Court, Justice Anjana Prakash, is on record stating that 66% of the total number of persons booked under the UAPA were for conspiracy without any allegations of accompanying acts of violence. She also revealed that out of the total number of 386 cases being investigated by the NIA, 74 cases were for non-UAPA offences while 312 pertained to UAPA offences. She added that NIA has not been able to submit charge-sheets in 56% of these cases, meaning that the accused in these cases still remain in custody. These figures definitely point to an unhealthy practice of “governance by fear” which has no legitimate place in a democracy.

The law, as it stands today, has many flaws and loopholes making it amenable to large scale abuse and misuse by some politicians and overzealous policemen. Things have come to such a pass that at a recent webinar on “Democracy, Dissent and Draconian Laws”, organised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, four former Supreme Court judges – Justices Aftab Alam, Madan B Lokur, Gopala Gowda and Deepak Gupta – came down heavily on UAPA and sedition laws and the way they are being misused to suppress democratic dissent and curb fundamental rights. Justices Gopala Gowda and Deepak Gupta were of the view that since Section 43D(5) of the UAPA takes away the power of courts to grant bail and order a judicial review, the law is unconstitutional.   All the former Supreme Court judges agreed that the UAPA should not remain in the statute book in its present form. We believe, like them, that such a draconian law has no place in a civilised society, particularly in a country claiming to be the world’s largest democracy.

Participating in a session at the G-7 Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, held between 11 and 13 June 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of democracy and freedom being part of the Indian ethos. If the Prime Minister is true to his word, his government should heed the call of legal luminaries and the ordinary public, appreciate that the UAPA in its present form poses a serious threat to the freedom of our citizens and to democracy and, after consulting legal experts and taking into account the views of Parliament, enact fresh legislation to replace the UAPA which, while addressing concerns regarding terrorism, safeguards the right to liberty of those exercising their fundamental right of free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

ON AUGUST 16, 2021


SATYAMEVA JAYATE

(108 signatories, as below)

1.Anita AgnihotriIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2.Salahuddin AhmadIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3.S.P. AmbroseIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4.Anand ArniRAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5.G. BalachandhranIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
6.Vappala BalachandranIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
7.Gopalan BalagopalIAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
8.Chandrashekhar BalakrishnanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
9.Rana BanerjiRAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
10.T.K. BanerjiIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
11.Sharad BeharIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
12.Aurobindo BeheraIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
13.K.V. BhagirathIFS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mauritius
14.Ravi BudhirajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
15.Sundar BurraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
16.R. ChandramohanIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
17.Rachel ChatterjeeIAS (Retd.)Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
18.Kalyani ChaudhuriIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
19.Gurjit Singh CheemaIAS (Retd.)Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
20.F.T.R. ColasoIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of  Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
21.Anna DaniIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
22.Vibha Puri DasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
23.P.R. DasguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
24.Pradeep K. DebIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
25.Nitin Desai Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
26.Keshav DesirajuIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
27.M.G. DevasahayamIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
28.Sushil DubeyIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Sweden
29.A.S. DulatIPS (Retd.)Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
30.K.P. FabianIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Italy
31.Prabhu GhateIAS (Retd.)Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
32.Arif GhauriIRS (Retd.)Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
33.Gourisankar GhoshIAS (Retd.)Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
34.Suresh K. GoelIFS (Retd.)Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
35.S.K. GuhaIAS (Retd.)Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
36.H.S. GujralIFoS (Retd.)Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
37.Meena GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
38.Deepa HariIRS (Resigned) 
39.Siraj HussainIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
40.Kamal JaswalIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
41.Najeeb JungIAS (Retd.)Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
42.Arun KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
43.Brijesh KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
44.Ish KumarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
45.Sudhir KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
46.Subodh LalIPoS (Resigned)Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
47.B.B. MahajanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI
48.Harsh ManderIAS (Retd.)Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
49.Amitabh MathurIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
50.Aditi MehtaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
51.Shivshankar MenonIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
52.Malay MishraIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Hungary
53.Sunil MitraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
54.Noor MohammadIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India
55.Avinash MohananeyIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
56.Satya Narayan MohantyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
57.Jugal MohapatraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Rural Development, GoI
58.Deb MukharjiIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
59.Shiv Shankar MukherjeeIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
60.Gautam MukhopadhayaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Myanmar
61.Pranab S. MukhopadhyayIAS (Retd.)Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
62.NagalsamyIA&AS (Retd.)Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
63.T.K.A. NairIAS (Retd.)Former Adviser to Prime Minister of India
64.P.A. NazarethIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
65.P. Joy OommenIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
66.Amitabha PandeIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
67.Niranjan PantIA&AS (Retd.)Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
68.Maxwell PereiraIPS (Retd.)Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
69.Alok PertiIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
70.R. PoornalingamIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
71.Rajesh PrasadIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
72.Sharda PrasadIAS (Retd.)Former Director General (Employment and Training), Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI
73.Rajdeep PuriIRS (Resigned)Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
74.T.R. RaghunandanIAS (Retd.)Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
75.N.K. RaghupathyIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
76.V.P. RajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
77.C. Babu RajeevIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, GoI
78.K. Sujatha RaoIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
79.M.Y. RaoIAS (Retd.) 
80.Vijaya Latha ReddyIFS (Retd.)Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
81.Julio RibeiroIPS (Retd.)Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
82.Aruna RoyIAS (Resigned) 
83.A.K. SamantaIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
84.Deepak SananIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
85.G. SankaranIC&CES (Retd.)Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
86.Shyam SaranIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
87.N.C. SaxenaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
88.A. SelvarajIRS (Retd.)Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
89.Aftab SethIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Japan
90.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFoS (Retd.)Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
91.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
92.Navrekha SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Indonesia
93.Raju SharmaIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
94.K.S. SidhuIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
95.Ajai Vikram SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Defence Secretary, GoI
96.Ramesh Inder SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Punjab and former Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab
97.Satyavir SinghIRS (Retd.)Former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
98.Sujatha SinghIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
99.Tara Ajai SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
100.Tirlochan SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
101.Narendra SisodiaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
102.Anup ThakurIAS (Retd.)Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
103.Thanksy ThekkekeraIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
104.P.S.S. ThomasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
105.Hindal TyabjiIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
106.Ashok VajpeyiIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
107.Ramani VenkatesanIAS (Retd.)Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
108.Rudi WarjriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 


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