Unlawful activities prevention act - a draconian law
Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is an Indian law aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. It never ceased to be in controversy ever since its adoption in 1951. There were several amendments made to it but it continued to be criticized.
Recently it garnered attention when a Forty-eight-year-old Gokalkonda Naga Saibaba, a professor of English at Delhi University, someone who suffers from a spinal disorder was sentenced to life in prison for being a terrorist. Someone who is confined to wheelchair and suffering from a condition that would only deteriorate without proper treatment is convicted for being a Maoist and sympathizing with the banned Communist Party of India.Notable convicts of UAPA:
Draconian nature1. Vague descriptions
- Saibaba for his ideologies of supporting adivasis in central India’s mineral-rich corridor.
- KK Shahina for investigating the framing of Muslims by the Karnataka Police in cases of terror.
- Jyoti Chorge for keeping literature of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
- 17 Muslim men in Karnataka for possessing jihadi literature which later turned out to be Quran. Case collapsed but they suffered 7 years of imprisonment.
Reasonable, unlawful activities, terrorist activities and terrorist organisations to include ideologies and thinking, etc are all vague descriptions that can be manipulated to suit the need of the government in every era. These terms need to be detailed upon and pondered from activities point of view instead of vague thinking and ideologies. Non-violent, peaceful, political protests are also taken into the same sphere and criminalised by terming them with the latest of vague terms – anti-nationals.2. Criminalising ideologies
If one happens to possess a book of an organisation that has been deemed communist or banned from any perspective, the person can be termed and tried for criminal activity. Even if one is found to have the slightest bit inclination to support or share the view of one such organisation, they are doomed according to the draconian law.3. Sympathising becomes a crime
If a person or a group of activists sympathises with a minority group that has been oppressed for years, they are deemed terrorists and are sentenced to jail. Bail is denied to these people. They are hardly meted out with humane treatment. They do not, at times, get proper legal protection. Atrocities of ABVP in DU are a living, breathing example of the draconian nature of our laws.4. Topping up with state laws
If the draconian nature of UAPA wasn’t enough, the state illegal activity prevention laws add insult to injury most of the times. Some of them include Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA), Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA), Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978; Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act, 1992, etc.5. Illegal detention
UAPA provides the government the right to detain without filing a charge sheet for up to 180 days. They can be sent to police custody for 30 days under the same draconian law. The act also creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is also out of question. It creates an opinion of guilt for terrorist activities merely based on the evidence that are mostly jinxed.6. Special court proceedings
There is no other exception bit to this law that could allow in-camera court proceedings behind closed doors and with the help of secret witnesses. This makes it a very government friendly law which is only intended to help the government in terming anyone as an anti-national when there is no other option left for them.
UAPA is draconian in nature and has been misused numerous times to prevent acts that could go against the state. They should be considered for amendment and not just to add more vague terms but to describe them better.