UAPA being misused to silence voices against injustice’

What are the issues with UAPA? 

Context:  

In last week alone three important judgements were delivered on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA),1967. These are, 

  1. The grant of regular bail to three student activists in the Delhi riots case of 2020. The Delhi High Court held that the police had failed to show its accusations were prima facie true. 
  2. Acquittal of two persons in a nine-year-old UAPA case in Nanded, Maharashtra, by a special NIA court, for lack of evidence. 
  3. The grant of default bail by the Karnataka High Court to 115 Muslim men among 350 who were arrested in the aftermath of rioting and police firing in 2020. 
About UAPA: 

Originally enacted in 1967, the UAPA was amended to be modelled as an anti-terror law in 2004 and 2008. The significant provisions of amendments are,  

  • The period of detention is increased, enlarging the period of custody prior to which default bail cannot be granted 
  • Regular bail is subject to the satisfaction of the judge that no prima facie case exists. This makes bail a near impossibility. 
  • Lengthy periods of pre-trial incarceration for the accused who are presumed guilty of heinous terror crimes. 
Issues with UAPA: 
  • UAPA is being misused to put people like independent journalists, students and activists who are fighting for justice 
  • The condition of UAPA prisoners: The persons arrested with UAPA were not entitled to the provisions of jail manual citing safety and security concerns. Further, there is a continuous violation of human rights inside prison. 
  • High pendency rate: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published the status of UAPA between 2016 and 2019. 
  • A total of 4,231 FIRs were filed under various sections of the UAPA, of which 112 cases have resulted in convictions. While the number of acquittals is low, at 187. 
  • The rate of pendency at the level of trial is at an average of 95.5 per cent. This  signifies the reasons for long years of undertrial imprisonment. 
Judicial interventions: 
  • In Union of India v K A Najeeb case, 2020: The Court held that despite restrictions on bail under the UAPA, constitutional courts can still grant bail on the grounds that the fundamental rights of the accused have been violated. 
  • In Gautam Navlakha v NIA. case:  The Supreme Court held that house arrest fell within the ambit of judicial custody but refused to count the days spent in house arrest as custody for the purpose of granting him default bail. 
Suggestions:                     
  • UAPA should not be misused and should be used for the purpose it was made for — to put terrorists behind bars. 

SourceThe HinduThe Indian Express 

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