- UAPA (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 2nd August 2019. Earlier, it was passed in Lok Sabha too. The purpose of this bill is to provide a special procedure to deal with terrorist activities.
- There is a need to act tough on terrorism amid growing threats from terrorists. So, strengthening UAPA is necessary.
- Till now, only organisations were designated as terrorist organisations, but not individuals. The loophole in this is the individuals of the banned organisations are forming new organisations and are carrying terror activities. This amendment bill for Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists, thereby terror attacks can be prevented.
- To prevent the violation of human rights, four-stage scrutiny is added. Designating individuals as terrorists is not started by India. US, European Union, China also has this provision.
- There is a growing threat of lone-wolf terrorism. Lone wolf terrorists do not have any association with terrorist organisations, but they commit terror attacks alone by themselves. This new amendment to UAPA has the potential to curb lone wolf terrorism.
Valid points of opposition:-
- This bill provides more police powers to the central government. The provision of naming individuals as terrorists can be misused. For example, recently several civil activists are termed as Urban Naxals. If anyone opposes the government, they will be vulnerable to be framed as terrorists. Because this amendment made it easier to label anyone as a terrorist.
- Labelling organisations as terror organisations and labelling individuals as terrorists are quite different. If a person is named as a terrorist, he/she will face social exclusion and will be devoid of livelihood opportunities even if he/she proved otherwise. The consequences will be irreversible. For example, in 2016 alone 67% of the cases ended in acquittal, which means they are probably innocent.
- If someone is booked under UAPA, the burden of proving their innocence is on them. This new amendment is enabling the government to seize their properties. Then how will they pay for legal expenses to prove their innocence, if they are falsely accused?
- This bill gave exclusive powers to the ‘National Investigation Agency’ (NIA). NIA can take any person into their custody under UAPA without taking prior permission from the state government. This is against the federalism, which is guaranteed by the constitution of India.
In August 2019, the United Nations warned about a possible new wave of terror attacks by the end of this year. So, there is a need to act quickly to protect the country from terrorism. And hence strengthening laws to fight against terrorism is a good step. But exclusive powers to central government is a threat to democracy and to those who fight against the ruling party.
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