The government informed parliament that while cases under the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act (UAPA) have increased since 2016, prosecutions have been poor.
- According to data provided by the Interior Ministry (MHA) to Rajya Sabha, 3,005 cases were registered under the anti-terrorism law between 2016 and 2018, but indictment sheets were only filed in 821 cases, indicating that investigations could not be completed in about 27% of these cases.
- When asked about UAPA cases, MoS (home) G Kishan Reddy told Rajya Sabha in a written response that a total of 922, 901 and 1182 UAPA cases were registered nationwide in 2016 , 2017 and 2018, respectively.
- In those cases, 3,974 people were arrested: 999 in 2016, 1,554 in 2017 and 1,421 in 2018. However, Reddy said, in 2016 indictments were filed in only 232 cases. In 2017 the figure was 272 and in 2018 it was 317.
- Reddy also informed the House that as many as 123 cases in 2017 had been pending investigation for over a year, while in 2018 the figure was 62.
- The data is significant because, given the nature of crime, the defendants The UAPA is struggling to get bail and with investigations delayed it continues to languish in prisons.
- In response to another question, Reddy told Rajya Sabha that in 2017 and 2018, 1,198 people were detained by police under the National Security Act (NSA) across the country. Of those, 563 are still behind bars.
- He also said Madhya Pradesh detained the highest number of people – 795 – under the NSA regime during the period followed by Uttar Pradesh with 338 people.
- Nationwide, in 2018, a total of 697 people were detained under the NSA, of which 406 were released. In 2017, 501 people were arrested and 229 released by review boards.
- The government also told parliament on Wednesday that as many as 12 states had seen Islamic State influence and southern states were badly affected.
- Some cases of people from different states, including southern states, who have joined the Islamic State (IS) have come to the attention of central and state security agencies.
- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recorded 17 cases linked to ISIS presence in the southern states of Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and arrested 122 accused Reddy said in a written response to Rajya Sabha.
- Reddy said ISIS is using social media platforms to spread its ideology and that agencies are keeping a close eye on cyberspace.
What is UAPA and what is it used for?
The UAPA is first and foremost an anti-terrorism law, the objective of which is “to prevent more effectively certain illicit activities of individuals and associations and to fight against terrorist activities.”
- It was first enacted in 1967 to target secessionist organizations and is considered the predecessor of laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) (now repealed).
- One-off changes made the UAPA more stringent. After the last amendment in 2019, a person can be designated as a terrorist; only organizations can be nominated earlier. UAPA cases are tried by special courts.
- The law has been used in cases other than conventional “terrorism” or “terrorist acts”. Recently, it has been used against activists, student leaders and journalists.
- UAPA cases against activists were filed in the Bhima-Koregaon case; at least two journalists in Kashmir; Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, members of the Collective of Alumni and Alumni of Pinjra Tod; former Congressman Ishrat Jahan; Khalid Saifi of United Against Hate; Safoora Zargar, student of Jamia Millia Islamia; and now Umar Khalid.
What are the police saying in the case against Khalid and others?
The investigation is based on FIR 59 of 2020, in which Articles 302 (murder) 153A (promotion of hostility between different groups for religious reasons, etc.) of the IPC, 124A (sedition) and others have been included.
- The crux of the matter for the police is that the February 2020 “community unrest” incidents in Delhi were “pre-planned” by Khalid and the others. Khalid is accused of making provocative speeches and urging people to take to the roads to ensure that “minority propaganda in India is persecuted” is made public when US President Donald Trump visits. (February 24 and 25).
- Police also claimed to have collected evidence against the defendants in the form of WhatsApp chats allegedly used in “the execution of the conspiracy”, statements from alleged witnesses and evidence of receipt of funds in India and the UK.
What provisions of the UAPA have been used in the FIR?
Subsequently, Articles 13, 16, 17 and 18 of the UAPA were added to the case. Illegal activity is defined by law as any action – visible words or writings, signs or representations – which targets or supports any claim intended to secure any part of India or which causes someone to separate; rejects, questions, disturbs or intends to disturb the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; and “which causes or seeks to provoke discontent against India”.
- The word “disaffection” has not been defined in the law and is mentioned only once. Article 13 (“Punishment for illegal activities”), which has been invoked against Khalid and others, provides up to seven years in prison for anyone who “defends, encourages, advises or incites the commission of illegal activity. “
- Article 16 (“Punishment for a terrorist act”) specifies the death penalty or life imprisonment in the event of death as a result of the act.
- The law defines a terrorist act as an act which seeks to threaten or may threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India, and causes or is likely to cause death or injury and property damage.
- Article 17 provides for sanctions for fundraising for terrorist acts and Article 18 deals with the conspiracy behind the terrorist act or “any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act”.
How do the Delhi police justify invoking the anti-terrorism law?
While critics have argued that dissent or peaceful protest would not amount to provoking “disaffection against India,” police told the court the riots were the result of a larger plot to “surprise the government apparatus “and that the conspirators” have as their specific objective, object and mandate “to provoke” discontent and revolt against the Indian government.
- The prosecution argued that the purpose of the protests was “to destroy, destabilize and disintegrate the Indian government to force it to withdraw the law that amends the Citizenship Act (CAA) and the so-called National Citizens Registry” .
What makes UAPA stricter than other laws?
Safoora Zargar is the only person accused by UAPA to have been released on bail. But he received aid on humanitarian grounds: his request for bail was basically not dealt with by the Delhi High Court.
- Three people from the Indian Popular Front (PFI) were released on bail in March, but that was before UAPA provisions were added to the case.
- It is rare for a defendant to easily obtain a bond in a UAPA case.
- The court may dismiss the bond if, in its opinion, the cause is true “prima facie”.
- A defendant cannot apply for parole and the investigation period can be extended to 180 days from 90 days at the request of the prosecutor, which means that the defendant has virtually no chance of securing bail for default.
- In the case of the UAPA, police custody can also be extended to 30 days against 15 days allowed in ordinary criminal cases.