The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019

On 8 July 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs proposed The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to amend the provision of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. The bill gives special procedures to deal with terrorist activities.

The provision of the bill

Who may commit terrorism: In accordance with this act, the union government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organization if it:
  • commits in acts of terrorism,
  • participates in acts of terrorism,
  • promotes terrorism,
  • prepares for terrorism,
  • encourage terrorism
The Bill additionally authorizes the government to identify individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
Approval for seizure of property by National Investigation Agency (NIA) As per the act, an investigating officer have to obtain the prior permission of the Director General of Police (DGP) to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. The Bill adds that if the investigation is conducted by National Investigation Agency (NIA)'s officer then, the approval of the Director General of NIA would be needed for seizure of such property
Investigation by NIA As per the bill, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or Deputy Superintendent or above. In addition to this, the Bill authorizes NIA's officers, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
Insertion to schedule of treaties The Act states terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.
The Schedule includes nine treaties-
  • the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997)
  • the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979),

The Bill includes another treaty to the list-

International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

Criticism of the amendments

  • State's power to declare a person as a terrorist, it is an unconstitutional provision. Before the group or organization could be notified but now a person can be declared as a terrorist. At the same, there is no mention, on which grounds a person can be declared as a terrorist. So, this will be suitable for ruling govt to settle a political score by declaring terrorists to any person.
  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA), 2019 empowers the ruling government, to levy an indirect limitation on the right of dissent under the garb of handling terrorism. This is against democratical ethos which curbs freedom of expression and freedom of speech, so a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution which is part of Basic Structure of Constitution.
  • Right to Reputation violation, if any respected person declares as a terrorist so this causes irreversible loss of reputation which comes under the Right to live with dignity.
  • There has been an example of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) charges being slapped against people for only possessing revolutionary literature. When a draconian law is based on loose concepts, officials might find it luring to use it against anyone who is positioned against the government. For instance, a person who works for tribal rights, those who criticize the military's deeds in disturbed areas, etc., could run the risk of being branded terrorists.