Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

How UAPA has become more draconian over the years?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UAPA

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Students in Jammu & Kashmir were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) after allegations of abuse and threats during the World Cup final, along with raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
  • Jammu & Kashmir police invoked a ‘softer provision’ of UAPA, citing the act of ‘terrorizing’ others with pro-India or anti-Pakistan sentiments.

What is UAPA?

  • Purpose: UAPA empowers the government to investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism, and to designate entities as “unlawful” or “terrorist” organizations or individuals.
  • Enactment: Introduced in 1967, based on recommendations from the National Integration Council to counter national divisiveness. Initially focused on secessionist activities without explicit mention of terrorism.
  • Evolution of UAPA:
  1. Introduction of Terrorism (2004): Post-repeal of POTA, UAPA was amended to include terrorism. It defined terrorism, associated punishments, and introduced provisions for seizing ‘proceeds of terrorism’.
  2. Post-26/11 Amendments (2008): Expanded the definition of terrorism, introduced stringent bail conditions, and extended police and judicial custody durations. It also made bail more difficult to obtain and shifted the burden of proof to the accused in certain cases.
  3. Economic Security (2012): Included economic security under terrorism, categorizing activities like counterfeiting currency as terrorist acts. It also increased the duration for which an organization could be declared unlawful.
  4. Individual Designation (2019): Allowed the government to designate individuals as terrorists and expanded the NIA’s powers.

The ‘Softer’ Provision: Section 13

  • Section 13 of UAPA: Deals with punishment for ‘unlawful activities’ rather than ‘terrorist activities’. It includes imprisonment up to seven years for participating in, advocating, abetting, or inciting unlawful activities.
  • Implications: Although termed ‘softer’, this section still carries significant penalties and makes bail challenging to obtain.

Criticism and Concerns

  • Vague Definitions: The act’s broad and vague definitions, especially post-2008 amendments, allow for a wide interpretation of what constitutes terrorism or unlawful activities.
  • Human Rights Concerns: The act has been criticized for potentially violating human rights, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
  • Use against Dissenters: There have been instances where UAPA has been used against activists, journalists, and protestors, raising concerns about its use to suppress dissent.

Conclusion: Balancing Security and Rights

  • Need for Scrutiny: The use of UAPA, especially its ‘softer’ provisions, requires careful scrutiny to ensure it doesn’t infringe on fundamental rights while addressing security concerns.
  • Debate on Amendments: Ongoing debates about UAPA focus on finding a balance between national security needs and the protection of individual rights and freedoms.

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