Though Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had assured Parliament that the government would never allow the misuse of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) unanimously condemned the passage of amendments to the Act in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
At its 11th national convention here on Sunday, the PUCL alleged that the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill 2011 was “stealthily passed by the Lok Sabha without any debate and discussion.”
The PUCL has been campaigning for the repeal of the UAPA, claiming that there was enough evidence to show that it was being extensively abused in the name of combating left wing extremism, forcing innocent citizens to languish in prisons.
“It is shocking to learn that the new amendments aim at changing the definition of person [Section 2] which is a direct attack on Article 19 [of the Constitution], as now the government can label any unregistered association of persons as unlawful,” Kavita Srivastava, PUCL national secretary, told The Hindu.
“It is also disturbing that the government, by amending Section 6, is planning to extend the ban on organisations from two to six years. These and other amendments go against the letter and spirit of the Constitution and represent one more step towards silencing people posing a challenge to the government,” she said.
The PUCL resolved to lobby against the passage of the amendments in the Rajya Sabha.
The PUCL’s convention, which was inaugurated by activist Teesta Setalvad, saw the new executive taking over.
While Prabhakar Sinha continues to be the president, V. Suresh, senior advocate from Tamil Nadu, took over as the general secretary.
Ritu Priya from Jawaharlal Nehru University took over as treasurer, while Dr. Binayak Sen, Sanjay Parikh and P.B. D’Sa continue to be the vice-presidents.
Mahipal Singh, Chittranjan Singh and Ms. Srivastava will continue as national secretaries.
The two-day conference, in which over 400 people from 18 States participated, also witnessed the release of Adrishya Bharat, a book on manual scavengers.
The book, written by Bhasha Singh, was released by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Seema Azad and Sohan Lal from the Safao Karamchari Andolan of Rajasthan.
Wilson Bezwada, president of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, said there was no political will on the part of the government to even spend one rupee on the elimination of the shameful practice of manual scavenging.