WHY IN NEWS:
- In June, 2021, Delhi High Court granted bails to three student activists – Asif Iqbal Tanha Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita.
- They are accused of conducting riots and anti CAA protests in North East Delhi.
- This case highlighted another instance of misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.
- The UAPA was formulated originally in 1967 and the UAPA was amended to be modelled as an anti-terror law in 2004 and 2008.
- It aims at the effective prevention of unlawful activities association in India. Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.
- This is the first instance of a court calling out alleged misuse of the UAPA.
- The Delhi High Court has ruled that the bail court can look at the available evidence to satisfy itself about the prima facie truth of the case.
- The Delhi High Court said that the extent and reach of terrorist activity must travel beyond the effect of an ordinary crime and must not arise merely by causing disturbance of law and order. It must be such that it travels beyond the effect of an ordinary law enforcement agencies to deal with it by ordinary law.
- HC said that the right to peaceful protest is not outlawed.
- The court held that student activists protest cannot be termed as a terrorist act’ within the meaning of the UAPA.
UAPA (Amendment) Act 2019
- This empowered the Central Government to designate even individuals as terrorists on specific grounds.
- It also empowered the officers of the NIA (National Investigation Agency) of the rank of inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism.
- It gives power to the Director General (NIA) to grant approval of attachment of property when the case is under investigation by the agency.
There is a need to rectify anomalies with a suitable amendment. The government should educate the law enforcement Agencies to prevent the problem of misuse. It casts a duty upon the judiciary to ensure that the arrest itself is based on cogent and irrefutable evidence. Hence, the judiciary should take cognizance time to time.
- However there has been over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention) Act in 2019 compared to year 2015 data provided by Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Therefore, it shows that UAPA has given unfettered powers to government & hence focus must be revisited to this act & placed on balancing the security interests with keeping fundamental freedom intact granted by the constitution.