Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Bill

Last Updated at: Apr 29, 2020
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Bill

July 8th, 2019 was a landmark day for the Indian Legislative, as Amit Shah layout on the Lok Sabha floor plans for the amendment of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Bill. The Bill was passed with both vociferous support and cries of unrest from the Opposition. Whatever the public opinion might be, the Bill is all set to change the way India combats terror. While the Bill has received both brickbats and appreciation, for someone standing on the outside fringe, the developments are not very easy to understand. If you’re one of those people who would like to know more about the UAPA Bill and what it means for us, then this is the article for you. Read on to learn everything there is to know about the UAPA Amendment Bill and its possible after-effects.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Bill

287 members of the Lower House voted in favour of the Bill and eight members dissented. Several Congress MPs walked out as a sign of protest against the passing of the Bill. They have requested the Bill to be sent to a Standing Committee.

Proposals of The Bill

As per the statements read out by the Home Minister, Amit Shah, the Bill will give more teeth to India’s anti-terrorist squads. The major changes and updates it brings forth are:

  •  Power to designate not just an organization or outfit, but rather a specific individual as a terrorist and hold him or her in custody as one till proven guilty or innocent. Individuals may be regarded as a “terrorist” if they:
  1. Commits act considered as terrorist actions
  2. Prepares for terrorist attacks
  3. Promotes terrorism or recruits people for the same
  4.  Are in any way linked to any activity that has a terrorist undertone to it
  • Allows the National Investigation Agency to take over and claim property during terror-related case investigations, with the of NIA’s Director-General. This means, officers no longer have to get the DGP’s approval to do the same, resulting in the saving of time and reduction of paperwork.
    • Gives power to NIA officers with the rank of Inspector and above to investigate cases, while before the Amendment, officers needed to have the designation of at least Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police.
    • Improvement in the NIA’s monitoring system
    • Remand time increased to 30 days from the existing 14 days.

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Criticism Against the UAPA Bill

While Amit Shah made it clear while the Bill will make sure that it complies with international obligations, Amnesty International India disagrees with the notion. Several outfits have come out stating that the Bill is a direct violation of fundamental rights and that giving such unchecked power to officials will give rise to harassment and unlawful detention of individuals.

Mrinal Sharma, who functions as the Policy Advisor of Amnesty International India, made the following statement in an interview soon after.

“It is ironic that the government is relying on international law when the entire law is ignorant of international discourse on human rights. Time and again, UAPA, has been abused by recurring governments to target human rights defenders working with marginalized communities and those who criticise government inactions or excesses.”

As per the UN’s Rapporteur on Protection of Human Rights, while fighting terrorism, an act may be termed as “terrorist” if it has three elements within it. These are:

  • Usage of deadly means
  • Motive to instil fear
  • Aim to push a radical agenda

However, the UAPA has been criticized for making the term “terrorist” quite ambiguous by linking it to:

  1. Any act that results in people dying, or property getting damaged
  2. By using criminal forces
  3. Motive to compel the government to do or not do something
  4. Likely acts which are threatening
  5. Likely to be engaged in terrorist activities

As per records furnished by the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2016, more than 75% of cases registered under UAPA resulted in acquittal or discharge.  This amendment is, therefore, seen as a wrong move which will place further powers in the hands of officials who can even go to the extent of criminalizing dissent. NCP MP Supriya Sule also spoke against the bill stating that it could be used to target activists and social workers who do not agree with the Government’s policies.

Praises for the UAPA Bill

As with every law passed, there are two sides of the coin. While we have analysed the negative aspect of it, let’s now take a look at why a country like India needs the UAPA Bill.

Home Minister Amit Shah came to the defence of the UAPA Amendment Bill by citing it as essential to maintain and sustain law enforcement and anti-terrorist agencies ahead of perpetrators. He promised the mandate that these laws would not be misused but rather would go a long way in helping rid India of her internal terrorist problems. The individual assessment of someone as a terrorist is a necessary step which had to be taken to ensure that agencies get the chance to detain and question suspects. He also mentioned that if the UPA alliance had gone the right way with their anti-terror laws, the NDA would not have had to draft such a Bill.

Shah also made it clear that social activists and leaders would be spared, but that anyone promoting Naxalism would finally get the treatment they deserve. People who misguide the poor into taking up arms against the system will no longer be tolerated in this country, as per the NDA spokesperson. It has also been cited as a move that will provide a big push to India’s internal security measures.

With arguments coming in from both sides, let us all hope for the benefit of our country that the Bill helps in curbing terrorism. Let us wish that the Law is not misused and is used extensively to fight terrorism within the country. Let us all work together to prevent another Pulwama from occurring. Let us all work together to stop the spreading of fear and terror.


A lawyer with 14 years' experience, Vikram has worked with several well-known corporate law firms before joining Vakilsearch.