Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967

What is UAPA?
  • UAPA is anti-terrorist law aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • It bans certain terrorist associations, punishes membership and association with such organizations and punishes terrorist activities.
  • The law been legislated to impose reasonable restrictions in interests of sovereignty and integrity of India on exercise of freedom of speech and expression, to assemble peaceably without arms and to form associations.
  • The Act came after the 16th CAA, 1963 which placed reasonable restrictions on [Ar.19(1)], [Ar.19(2)], [Ar.19(3)].
Crime under the Act:
  • To support any secessionist movement
  • To support a foreign power’s claim over Indian territories
  • Threatening economic security of India
  • Raising funds for terrorist activities (including the production and circulation of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN)
  • Member of unlawful associations or terrorist gang or terrorist organisation
Note:
  • List of Banned Organizations in India is made under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 – the period for which an association can be declared as unlawful is five years.
  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 helps meet the commitments to the Financial Action Task Force.

 

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As it stands now, the act gives draconian powers to the state to harass people.
  • Expanded definition of terror: “Terror” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act includes even the “disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community in India or in any foreign country”. Which means even an industrial strike could now be “terror” if the government so chooses it to be. Moreover, simply being the member of a “terrorist gang or organisation” is enough to merit life imprisonment, even if the accused played no actual part in a crime. This has led to cases where the police has tried to prove membership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) simply by pointing to the person possessing “Maoist literature” – a unique case of your reading choices leading you to prison.
  • Encourages police torture: Gruesome torture is an almost regular part of policing in India. The UAPA makes it even easier for this to occur since it allows the police to detain someone for up to six months without filing charges.
  • Overturns presumption of innocence: Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental feature of the common law system that India follows. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, though, overturned it in 2008. A person is automatically assumed to be guilty if weapons are recovered from him. India’s lawmakers, in a convenient bit of naiveté, did not consider the prospect of the police itself planting arms on a person even though instances of such false cases are rather common in India.
  • Arbitrary bans: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act empowers the state to ban organisations summarily without having to provide a reason. This leads to a curiously Kafkaesque situation: how can an organisation logically contest its ban in court if it does not know why it was banned in the first place?
  • Guilt by association: This rather well-known logical fallacy is also a key part of the UAPA. In 2012, the Union government expanded the definition of a “person” to include “an association of persons or a body of individuals”. Given this clause, as this Human Right Watch report points out, a person could be charged with terror for simply being in contact with another accused. When it was pointed out that the proposed 2012 amendment contained a logical fallacy, the Union government’s “solution” was to reply with a legal fallacy and overturn the legal presumption of innocence.
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