Sacrificing liberty for national security

Context

  • The amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 empowers the Central government to name any individual a terrorist if it believes him or her to be so.

Background of UAPA

  1. UAPA was passed by the Indira Gandhi government to deal with the secessionist Dravidian movement.
  2. During the 1962 war, the Communist Party blamed Jawaharlal Nehru and did not wholeheartedly support the Indian troops. In 1966, Hindu Sadhus protesting against cow slaughter marched in front of Parliament.
  3. Against this backdrop, an unlawful activity was defined as any action taken
    1. to bring about the cession of a part of the territory of India
    2. To incite any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession
    3. To disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India
    4. to cause disaffection against India

Arguments against the bill

  1. As per Section 35(2), the Central Government shall exercise its power in respect of an organisation or an individual only if it believes that such an organisation or individual is involved in terrorism.
    1. There is no FIR. There is no charge sheet. There are no charges framed.
    2. There is no trial in a court. There is no conviction.
    3. There is no basis on which you will name an individual.
  2. There is a close parallel between sedition and unlawful activity. The act almost equates the two.
  3. There is no need to label an individual as a terrorist when the organization he is affiliated to is already banned.
  4. Ban on organizations vs individuals
    1. UAPA has now been extended to cases of terrorism too. After TADA and POTA were repealed due to repeated misuse, UAPA was amended in 2004 to bring into its fold cases of terrorism. Organizations such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Hizbul Mujahideen, and the Khalistan Commando Force have been scheduled as banned organizations.
    2. Most of these bans are not challenged, and judicial tribunals have upheld the imposition of such bans from time to time.
    3. Banning an organization renders its members vulnerable to prosecution. Consequences include loss of property linked to terrorism. The organization itself may challenge the notification in a judicial tribunal.
    4. But, all these defenses will vanish if an individual is notified as a terrorist. 
    5. No link to any organization needs to be proved. People consorting in any manner with a notified individual can also be roped in under the Act.
  5. Almost any utterance on social media these days can be construed as one “which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India”.

Defending the amendments

  1. The act aims to fight terror.
  2. It strengthens the government’s powers to deal with disaffection and anarchy.
  3. The predominant duty of the government is to keep the country united against existential threats. 

Conclusion

  • Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Indians deserve better respect for their liberties than this ill-thought-out law.

Source:TH