Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

An Overview : UAPA and The Concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UAPA, TADA, POTA

Mains level: UAPA, misuse and necessity


Central Idea

  • India’s anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), has been misused and turned into a tool of terror. There are two examples of this misuse in recent times. In 2021, Muhammad Manan Dar, a young Kashmiri photojournalist, was arrested and imprisoned for documenting the daily lives of common Kashmiris with his camera. A year earlier, another journalist, Sidheeque Kappan, was charged with participating in a plot to ignite rioting in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh.

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Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • Background: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is an anti-terrorism law in India that was first introduced in 1967.
  • Purpose: The purpose of UAPA is to prevent unlawful activities that threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • Amendments: UAPA has undergone several revisions since its introduction, with each revision making the law more stringent. Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, terrorist act was added to the list of offences.
  • Provisions: UAPA provides for the designation of individuals and organizations as “terrorists” and allows for their arrest and detention without trial for up to 180 days.
  • Criticisms: UAPA has been criticized for being used to stifle dissent and suppress political opposition. Critics argue that the law is vague and overbroad, allowing for its misuse and abuse.

What is Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA)?

  • Overview: TADA was an anti-terrorism law in India and enacted in 1985 and was in force until 1995. It was enacted to strengthen the legal framework to deal with terrorist activities in India.
  • Provisions: TADA provided for the detention of suspects without trial for up to 180 days. It also allowed the setting up of special courts to conduct trials in cases related to terrorism and provided for the admissibility of confession made to a police officer. TADA also made certain activities punishable as terrorist acts, including illegal arms trade, financing terrorism, and disrupting the sovereignty of India.
  • Criticism: TADA was also criticized for its vague and broad definition of terrorism, which allowed for the targeting of political dissidents.
  • Repeal: TADA was allowed to lapse in 1995 after it was deemed to be incompatible with the Indian Constitution and the principles of democracy and the rule of law. The law was replaced with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2002, which was also criticized for its draconian provisions and misuse by law enforcement agencies.

What is Prevention of Terrorism Act 2004 (POTA)?

  • Objective: To provide the government with legal tools to combat terrorism and punish those who support or engage in terrorist activities.
  • Key Provisions: Broad powers to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of terrorism-related activities. Power to detain suspects for up to 180 days without charge. Use of confessions made to police officers as evidence in court
  • Criticism: Potential for misuse and infringement on civil liberties. Could be used to target religious and ethnic minorities. Could be used to silence political dissent
  • Repealed: 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance government, citing concerns about misuse and potential for human rights abuses.
  • Replacement: Some provisions of POTA were incorporated into the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which remains in force in India today.

Worrying statistics

  • UAPA has one of the worst records for prosecution success.
  • According to a PUCL report in 2022, less than 3 per cent of arrests made under the UAPA resulted in convictions between 2015 and 2020.
  • Only 1,080 of the 4,690 people detained under the UAPA between 2018 and 2020 received bail, according to the report.
  • Unlike TADA and POTA, UAPA has never been constitutionally reviewed. Its repeated abuse is a blot on our democracy.


Some of the key concerns regarding the UAPA

  • Misuse: The UAPA has been criticized for being misused by authorities to target human rights defenders, activists, and dissenters. Critics argue that the act has been used to stifle free speech and to quell any form of peaceful protests.
  • Lack of accountability: The UAPA allows for the designation of an individual or organization as a terrorist entity, without providing adequate means for challenge or appeal, which many argue is against the principles of natural justice.
  • Vagueness: The definitions of “terrorist acts” under the UAPA are broad and vague, and can be interpreted in a way that infringes on the freedom of speech and assembly, leading to the potential for misuse.
  • Restrictions on bail: The UAPA has provisions that make it difficult for people charged under the act to obtain bail, as it requires that the accused show that they are not guilty, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused.
  • Excessive punishment: The UAPA provides for harsh punishments, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, for offenses related to terrorism, which many argue are disproportionate and infringe on human rights.

Why UAPA is necessary?

  • Legal tools to investigate: The UAPA provides the government with legal tools to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations involved in terrorist activities.
  • Special courts to conduct trials: It allows for the setting up of special courts to conduct trials in cases related to terrorism and provides for stringent punishment for offenses related to terrorism. It also allows the government to designate individuals or organizations as terrorist entities and freeze their assets.
  • Necessary measure to maintain sovereignty and integrity: The act is aimed at countering not just terrorism but also other forms of unlawful activities, such as organized crime, money laundering, and trafficking. It is considered to be a necessary measure to maintain the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, and to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
  • To balance national security and civil liberties: It is necessary to strike a balance between national security and protection of civil liberties. The act can be an effective tool in the fight against terrorism, as long as it is implemented in a fair and just manner and its provisions are not misused to stifle legitimate forms of dissent or activism.


  • Concerns over the UAPA highlight the need for a balanced approach in the fight against terrorism, one that protects national security while also ensuring the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Mains question

Q. UAPA is continuously in the headlines from the time of its inception. Discuss the concerns and necessity of such Act.

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