Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

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    In News

    • The Union Home Ministry (MHA) informed Lok Sabha in a written reply that  nearly 53% of persons arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were below the age of 30.
      • In 2020, the maximum arrests under UAPA of persons below 30 years of age was made in Uttar Pradesh (205) followed by Jammu and Kashmir (166), Manipur (113) and Jharkhand (35).

    Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

    • About: 
      • It was enacted to provide for more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations, and for dealing with terrorist activities.
      • It was amended in the years 2004, 2008, 2013, and 2019 to add certain provisions relating to various facets of terrorism. 
    • Key provisions:
      • Both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.
      • It is applicable even if the offence is committed outside india.
      • A charge sheet can be filed in maximum 180 days after the arrests.
      • The investigation has to be completed within 90 days and if not, the accused is eligible for default bail. 
      •  A Special Court under the UAPA conducts trials.
    • 2019 Amendment under UAPA Act, 1967:
      • Union government may designate an individual or an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: 
        • commits or participates in acts of terrorism, 
        • prepares for terrorism, 
        • promotes terrorism, or 
        • is otherwise involved in terrorism. 
      • Approval of Director- General for seizure of property if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA)
      • Officers of the rank of Inspector or above in NIA can investigate cases.
      • International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005)  is added under the schedule under which terrorist act is committed.

    Issues Surrounding UAPA

    • Misuse: It has been seen in the past that the Acts like POTA and TADA, which were specifically enacted to counter terrorism, were being misused.
    • Federalism: Police is a state subject under VIIth Schedule. Giving NIA authority to investigate and attach property is viewed as encroachment over the state’s jurisdiction.
    • Denial of Bail: Under Section 43D(5), bail cannot be granted to a suspect if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are prima facie true. 
    • Burden of Proof: Accused has to show that the case is false which is opposite of other criminal offences where the burden is on the State. 

    Way Forward

    • Interpretation: It is the  sacrosanct principle of interpretation of penal provisions that they must be construed strictly and narrowly
    • Bail: Court can look at the available evidence to satisfy itself about the prima facie truth of the case.
    • Burden of Proof: Standard of burden of proof should be higher and on the State.
    • Compensation: To prevent frivolous arrests, compensation should be provided out of government funds.
    • Check Misuse: Arrests should not be made for political vendetta. Proper information and investigation should be done before booking under the provisions of UAPA.

    Source: TH