- Many of us are aware of what is UAPA. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is an Indian law primarily aimed at the prevention of unlawful activities and associations in India. Its main objective is to make powers available to law enforcement agencies for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. Reams and reams have already been written about how the UAPA is being misused by law enforcement agencies in India even to those issues that do not merit the application of the same. Several civil society activists, concerned NGOs, legal experts, and people with considerable voices have opinioned that the UAPA should be used on matters strictly related to the harm being anticipated vis-a-vis integrity and sovereignty.
- However, what’s happening on the ground is simply unacceptable defeating the constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights of the people of India. Despite the Supreme Court mentioning in no uncertain terms on more than one occasion of judicious use of the UAPA law, several state governments are pressing ahead with imposing the same viz. petty offenses/episodes/incidents. This is simply disconcerting and unacceptable. Cops only need a flimsy ground to take umbrage to one of the most criticized laws in vogue. It begs a question as to why the elected governments are consistently failing to adhere to the urgings of the Supreme Court to be judicious while embracing the much-despised law. No one is paying attention. This is unfortunate.
- As reported recently, cops once again have used the draconian anti-terror law to arrest collegegoers for long live Pakistan slogans. In this instance, seven Kashmiri students of a Ganderbal college were arrested from their hostel days after they celebrated India’s loss to Australia in the cricket World Cup. In 2021, for similar celebrations when Pakistan beat India in cricket, a rash of arrests was made in Srinagar and UP for celebrating Pakistan’s win, which UP cops termed as sedition. While the sedition law is on pause, to be reframed in GOI’s updated criminal codes, expected to be tabled in the winter session, its twin draconian law UAPA remains intact. Under UAPA, jail not bail is more the norm, again going against the Supreme Court’s repeated urgings.
- Mind you, the arrested can be imprisoned for unspecified, long pre-trial periods. A 2021 amendment sharpened the law to a dangerous point – it allowed the individual to be tagged terrorist even without organizational affiliation or association. Yes, the police have wide latitude. And cases, when they reach court, drag on incessantly. In 2021, of 2,907 cases under trial, courts decided on just 68 – 27 convictions, 39 acquittals, and two discharges. That is a pendency rate of 98%. It is instructive that acquittals were more than convictions. No surprise there. Given the jail-not-bail norm, thousands have languished behind bars. In particular, lower courts have consistently failed to stop random arrests on flimsy grounds. This must stop forthwith.