Terrorist Organisations Designated Under UAPA

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    Context

    About

    • Jammu and Kashmir Ghaznavi Force (JKGF) surfaced in the year 2020 as a terrorist outfit that threatens security forces and incites people on social media platforms to join terrorist outfits fighting against India. 
    • The Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) came into existence in 2011 as an offshoot of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), a banned terrorist organisation.

    What is UAPA?

    • Unlawful activity means any conduct which constitutes a crime or which contravenes any law whether such conduct occurred before or after the commencement of this Act and whether such conduct occurred in the Republic or elsewhere.
    • Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life. In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life.
    • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
    • The provisions of this Act apply also to 
      • Citizens of India outside India.
      • Persons in the service of the Government, wherever they may be.
      • Persons on ships and aircraft, registered in India, wherever they may be.

    Issues with UAPA

    • Ignoring Fundamental Rights: Those arrested under UAPA can be incarcerated for up to 180 days without a charge sheet being filed. It thus directly violates Article 21 of the constitution. 
    • Low Prosecution Rate: According to a PUCL report in 2022, less than 3 percent of arrests made under the UAPA resulted in convictions between 2015 and 2020. 
    • Highly Discretionary: It confers upon the government broad discretionary powers and authorizes the creation of special courts with the ability to use secret witnesses and to hold closed-door hearings. 
    • Hindering political dissent: It is being used to suppress dissent through intimidation and harassment thus threatening the very existence of public debate and freedom of the press. 
    • Criminalizing Thoughts: It criminalizes mere thoughts and political protests that cause “disaffection” with the state. It is an assault on citizens’ right to expression. 
    • Stringent Provision of bail: The standard for bail under the UAPA is that it cannot be granted unless the court is of the view that the accused is innocent of the alleged offense.

    Way Ahead

    • The Act needs to be amended, in order to ensure a constitutional functionary who is independent of the Executive, is in charge of sanctions for prosecutions and investigations under this Act.
    • Ensuring proper implementation: One of the main issues with the UAPA has been its misuse by law enforcement agencies. Therefore, there is a need to ensure correct implementation.
    • Balancing security and individual rights: The UAPA is a powerful tool but it can also be misused to curtail the rights of citizens. Thus there is a need to strike a balance between national security concerns and individual rights.
    • The law can be made more effective by incorporating modern investigative techniques, providing greater oversight and transparency, and ensuring that the rights of the accused are protected.
    • Ensuring judicial independence: The UAPA cases are often politicized, and there are concerns about the independence of the judiciary in such cases. Thus the UAPA cases should be heard and decided on the basis of evidence and the rule of law.
    • SC on UAPA
      • The Court’s ruling in NIA v Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali (2020) has made the grant of bail almost impossible.
      • Justice Rohinton Nariman urged the SC to strike down “the offensive portions of the UAPA”

    Source: The Hindu