Rajya Sabha: UAPA Bill passed despite Opposition fears

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 02, 2019

Amit Shah

Law allows a person to be called a terrorist without FIR, chargesheet or trial: Chidambaram

After a heated debate, the Rajya Sabha on Friday approved crucial amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, allowing the Centre and States to designate individuals as terrorists and seize their property.

Opposition members argued that the amendments were ‘unconstitutional’ and violate an individual’s right to liberty.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill that seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, was passed by the Rajya Sabha with 147 votes in favour and 42 against. The Congress and the BSP supported the Bill. The House earlier rejected the opposition-sponsored motion to send the amendment to a select committee with 104 votes against and 85 in favour. The Congress had voted in favour of this motion. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on July 24.

‘Law misused by Cong’

Replying to the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah said the law will help agencies remain ‘four steps ahead of terrorists’. He alleged that the Congress misused it to frame people linked to a particular religion — in the context of Samjhauta and Mecca Masjid cases, where the accused have been acquitted by court.

Former Home Minister P Chidambaram questioned the purpose and the logic of the amendments regarding designating individuals as terrorists when they are already being prosecuted for the crime. He said concurrent amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure mean that the burden of proof shifts even if they are yet to be proved guilty. He said it was not clear from the bill at what stage will the individual be designated — at the time of the lodging of the FIR, filing of the chargesheet or upon conviction?

“If you look at the statement of objects and reasons, the real mischief Paragraph 3, Sub Paragraph 2, where it is mentioned in passing that it is to empower the Central Government to add and remove the name of an individual. This is the mischief and this is why we oppose the act. We are opposing the mischievous amendments which have empowered the Centre to name an individual. You are effectively amending Sections 35 Sub Sections 1, 2 and 3 and Section 36 Sub Sections 1, 5 and 6. The real mischief in Section 35 Sub Section 2,” said Chidambaram.

Section 35 Sub Section 2 as amended reads: “The Centre shall exercise its power under Clause (a) of Sub Section 1 in respect of an organisation or an individual only if it believes that such organisation and individual is involved in terrorism”.

“What it means is that if the Central Government believes that an individual is involved in terrorism, the individual will be named as terrorist. Please reflect — there is no FIR, no chargesheet, no trial and no conviction and yet, the individual is designated as a terrorist,” he said.

He said the courts will strike these provisions down as they are patently unconstitutional and directly interfere with individual liberty. “Let me caution you (government), this be struck down…This is unconstitutional…when it comes to the liberty of the individual, on every judge of the country, institutional conscience will prevail,” he said.

Congress’ Kapil Sibal urged the government to send the bill to a Select Committee. He highlighted the disproportionate number of people who were booked under UAPA but not convicted.

NCRB records

“According to the National Crime Records Bureau under UAPA, in the year 2014, there were 1,144 pending cases, of which 106 were tried and 33 cases completed. Of the total 33 completed, only nine people were convicted. The percentage of acquittals was 73 per cent.

“In 2015, there were 1,209 pending cases. The trial was completed in 76 cases. Of these, 11 were convicted and 65 were acquitted. The conviction rate was 14.5 per cent. This has been our experience that no trials happen, no bail is given and people languish for years in prison,” he said.

“You are using your brute majority in the Lok Sabha and manufactured majority in the Rajya Sabha to push these patently unfair amendments,” said Sibal.

Published on August 02, 2019

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