[Answered] Critically analyse the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019. Do you think it is a threat to fundamental freedoms enshrined in Indian Constitution?

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Key features and significance of the act. How it is threat to fundamental freedoms of individuals?
Conclusion. Way forward.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 amends the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967, providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India. It empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists if the person commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism. This has been done to stop the spread terrorism.

Key features of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act:

  1. Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation or an individual as a terrorist if it:
    • Commits or participates in acts of terrorism.
    • Prepares for terrorism.
    • Promotes terrorism.
    • Is otherwise involved in terrorism.   
  2. The act empowers the Director-General, National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is being investigated by the agency.
  3. Under the existing Act, the investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police (DGP) to seize properties that bear any connection to terrorism.
  4. It empowers the officers of the NIA of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  5. The existing Act provides for investigation of cases to be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
  6. The International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005) has been added in the act through the Amendment.

Significance of the amendment:

  1. This law is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  2. Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  3. 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.

How amendment act is a threat to fundamental freedoms in the constitution?

  1. UAPA amendment act is against the basic fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. It is against Articles 14, 19 and 21, representing the Right to Equality, Freedom of Speech and Expressions, and Right to Life, respectively.
  2. This is a potentially dangerous amendment which will empower officials of Union Ministry to brand any person ‘a terrorist‘, without following due process.
  3. The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political protest thus against Fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression in Article 19.
  4. An official designation as a terrorist will be akin to ‘civil death’ for a person, with social boycott, expulsion from job, hounding by media, and perhaps attack from self-proclaimed vigilante groups following.
  5. It empowers the government to declare an organisation as ‘terrorist’ and ban it. Mere membership of such an organisation itself becomes a criminal offence. This violate fundamental rights of an innocent.
  6. The only statutory remedy available to such a person is to make an application before the Central Government for de-notification, which will be considered by a Review Committee constituted by the Government itself.
  7. It allows detention without a charge sheet for up to 180 days and police custody can be up to 30 days.
  8. 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.
  9. It authorises the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings) and use secret witnesses but contains no sunset clause and provisions for mandatory periodic review.
  10. The law could be used to target minorities or a section of people like authors, academics, lawyers thereby affecting their rights.

Thus the amendment act is dangerous in the sense that it provide unchecked powers to government to designate anyone as a terrorist with less chance to the individual to prove his/her innocence. Further amendment has many loopholes that need to be plugged.

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