Two years since Article 370: A major success for the NDA?

  Two years after Indian parliament revoked the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narender Modi’s government seems to have succeeded in bringing the region under its direct control.On 5 August 2019, a proposal to abolish Article 370 and 35A implemented in Kashmir was introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha. After which President Ram Nath Kovind also approved it after the resolution was passed in the Rajya Sabha. After getting approval from the President, Article 370 and 35A were abolished from Jammu and Kashmir. After this big decision of the central government, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were separated and divided into two separate union territories.   After the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said, 'Now our country can move forward on the path of peace and development.' He said that this step will further strengthen the policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. Shah exuded confidence th

UAPA- Tool To Shut Dissent in India

 The death of Stan Swamy, the Jesuit priest and activist, India’s oldest political prisoner who died in jail, waiting for bail for nine months, at the age of 84 has brought the spotlight back on the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), the primarily counter-terror Law in India. 

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967 is the  primary counter-law in India. The terror law has come under sharp scrutiny recently with various courts finding application of the UAPA (arbitrary).

About The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 

Passed in 1967, the law aims at effective prevention of Unlawful activities in India. 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. 

It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments. Under UAPA, both India and foreign nationals can be charged. It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if the crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India. 

Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrest and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.

Amendment in UAPA :
  • The 2004 amendment added ‘terrorist act’ to the list of offences to ban organization's for terrorist activities, under which 34 outfits were banned. Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory.
  • In August 2019, Parliament cleared the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill 2019, designating individuals as terrorists on certain grounds provided in the Act.

  • The 2019 amendment empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency. The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition in action to those conducted by the DSP or ASP or above rank officer in the state.

What makes UAPA controversial ? 

  • The law makes bail difficult. It extends the pre charge sheet custody period from 90 days to 180 days. 

  • The UAPA restricts the right to the bail and makes the court  depend on police documents to presume guilt of the accused.

  • The conviction rate in UAPA is dismal. According to the Union home ministry’s data given to parliament in March this year, 2.2 percent of cases registered under UAPA between 2016 and 2019 resulted in conviction by the courts.

Use of UAPA too shut the Voice of Dissent  

After the August 2019 amendment the government got power that it can declare any person a terrorist  without any trial. Anyone can be declared a terrorist by imposing UAPA on him. Even the prisoner on  whom this charge has been imposed does not himself know what his crime is and is simply put in jail.

UAPA was completely changed by the government in 2019, after which the government imposed the UAPA on activists one after the other and put them behind the bars in jail, for example, Varavara Rao, Sharjeel Imam, and Anand Teltumbde. The one-third of such cases end in acquittal or discharge. 

Most Accused’s charges are dropped and they are released .  Actually, the job of this act is not to prove a point and charge, but to teach a lesson. There are few recent example how government use UAPA on activist to shut their voices: 

  • Assam’s epasent leader Akhil Gogoi was arrested in December 2019 and charged with sedition, criminal conspiracy besides being under charge of UAPA for allegedly supporting a terrorist organization. He was granted bail in the first week of July.

  •  The Delhi High Court in June flagged misuse of UAPA while granting bail to three college student activists-- Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha, in connection with Delhi Riot case 2020.

  • Earlier the  same month, two men were released from jail for lack of evidence. They were booked under the UAPA in Maharashtra’s Nanded.

  • On June16, the Karnataka High Court granted default bail to 115 persons charged under UAPA. The Court observed that while the police got more time for filing the charge sheet, the accused weren’t given notice or even an opportunity to be heard. 

It is worth noting that our government does not impose UAPA  on those who are terrorists. For example, Kashmir’s DSP  Devender Singh , who got arrested while ferrying two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terrorists in a vehicle on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, leave UAPA that dangerous   terrorist  got bail easily.  The problem is not that this Law is being used, the problem is that this law is being used against people who criticize the government, those who came from a particular party, particular ideology and particular community.  



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