UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2019 Current affairs topic for UPSC
The Parliament has recently approved an amendment to the anti-terror law to give powers to the central government to designate an individual as terrorist and seize his properties.
While Lok Sabha had passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 that seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 on July 24, Rajya Sabha approved it after rejecting an opposition-sponsored motion to send it to select committee. The House passed the amendment to the law with 147 votes in favour and 42 against it.
Replying to a debate on the amendment, Home Minister Amit Shah said a four-level scrutiny has been provided in the amendment and no human rights will be violated. He said declaring individuals as terrorists is required as they float different organisations once an institution is banned. Individuals can be declared terrorists if they commit or participate in acts of terrorism prepare or promote terror. The amendment is likely to expedite prosecution in terror cases.
Key Features of the Bill
It empowers the government to designate individuals as terroristsif the person commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
This has been done as it is seen that when a terrorist organization is banned, its members form a new organization to spread terrorism.
The bill also empowers the Director-General, National Investigation Agency (NIA)to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is being investigated by the agency.
Under the existing Act, the investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police (DGP) to seize properties that bear any connection to terrorism.
It has been seen that many times a terror accused own properties in different states. In such cases, seeking approval of DGPs of different states becomes very difficult, and the delay caused by the same may enable the accused to transfer properties.
It empowers the officers of the NIA —of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
The existing Act provides for investigation of cases to be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
No changes being made in arrest or bail provisions. Also, the provision that the burden of proof is on the investigating agency and not on the accused, has not been changed.
The International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005)has also been added in the Second Schedule through the Amendment.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
The UAPA, an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (repealed in 2004) was originally passed in the year 1967.
Till the year 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act” was addedto the list of offences.
The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
According to statistics published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 922 cases were reported under UAPA in 2016, which was 5% less than what was recorded in 2014, with 976 cases. At the same time, it was up by 3% from 2015 (897 cases). In total, 2,700 cases were registered over 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Here is a point-by-point decoder of how terrorists would be dealt with from now on
The amendments seek to allow the government to designate an individual as terrorist and bring in embargo on arms/assets seizures.
Under the law, personal/financial information of an individual designated as terrorist can be shared with various Western agencies. — It gives power to officers of the rank of Inspector of NIA to investigate the offences under chapter IV and Chapter VI.
The bill seeks to empower NIA to conduct raids anywhere without the relevant state government’s prior permission, a clause that has raised concerns and caused consternation in various quarters.
Besides designating an individual as a terrorist, the bill empowers the NIA to grant approval to seize/attach property when the case is being probed.
To allay fears about misuse of the law, home ministry has said that an individual designated as terrorist can appeal to the Home Secretary, who will have to dispose of the appeal within 45 days.
The Centre will constitute a review committee under the act. An implicated individual can appeal against the inclusion of his/her name and seek a hearing before the committee.
If not satisfied with the Home Secretary’s decision, the individual in question can move the committee headed by a sitting/retired judge of a high court and comprising at least two retired secretaries of the central government.
The government said the new law would be used “sparsely” — for example only in such cases as dreaded militants like Yasin Bhatkal and Masood Azhar, to name a few.
According to Home Ministry data, in India, in the last 15 years, only one outfit — Deendar Anjuman — appealed against the government’s decision to ban it. To put things in perspective, as many as 42 organisations had been declared illegal during the period under consideration.
Officials said the law will also prevent terror masterminds from setting up a new group after their previous outfit is outlawed.
It is not yet clear as to what kind of actions could be taken after an individual is so designated. According to official sources, an agency or state police could initiate a host of actions such as passport seizure, asset confiscation and/or travel embargo, in line with US and UN rules.
The provisions of the law are similar to a UN policy used by the Security Council to apply pressure on a state or entity to comply with the objectives set by the UN without resorting to the use of force.
Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind, and JeM chief Masood Azhar could be among the first individuals to be designated as terrorists under the law. Both of them have already been designated ‘global terrorists’ by the US, the UN and the EU.
This type of anti-terror laws are already there in such countries as US, China, Israel and the EU.
Terrorism has no religion, terrorists are against humanity. The track record of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), is excellent i.e. out of 278 terror cases registered by the agency, charge sheet has been filed in 204 cases. Of the 54 cases where judgements have come, conviction has been there in 48. The amendments confer on NIA greater powers to probe. This was imperative for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s policy of zero-tolerance against terrorism. “Terrorism is terrorism; it’s neither RIGHT nor LEFT. Perpetrators of terrorist acts need to be punished and will get punished under the law.