Activists from across the social spectrum have come together to urge the Rajya Sabha members to reject the “draconian” amendments in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 2008, alleging that they were against the very spirit of the Constitution. Highlighting the “complete absence of safeguards in the proposed UAPA and the possibility of its misuse by the police to harass innocent individuals”, they argued the proposed amendments have the “potential of facilitating State terrorism”.
“The amended UAPA will strengthen an already suspicious State, where anyone and everyone can be booked for terrorist acts, so broad are its definitions and sweeping its scope. Draconian measures have not and will not reduce terrorism, howsoever defined and understood,” said the appeal which was signed among others by the former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice Rajinder Sachar, sociologist Prof. Nandini Sundar, human rights activists Manisha Sethi and Dr. V Suresh, lawyer N. D. Pancholi and writer and historian Mukul Kesavan.
They also argued that the UAPA, during its amendments in 2008 copied many provisions of the previous anti-terror laws like Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1993, and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA) which had “already been discredited through credible documentation as anti-rights”.
Some of their objections include the part of the proposed amendments which criminalises the raising of funds “from a legitimate or illegitimate source”. Arguing that the amendment practically brings under the possibility of prosecution all transactions, even perfectly legitimate ones, the activists expressed apprehension that it may be misused to harass workers and non-governmental organisations for the money raised by them.
The other important objection is the definition of “person” in the proposed amendments, which has been defined “far too broadly”. “The sub-clause will actually allow agencies and government to create persons beyond that what are recognised by law. From a book reading club to friends who meet every evening in the evening at a dhaba, every body can be drawn in – through guilt by association – a wide circle of people with an accused/ suspect and accuse them of terrorist acts,” said the appeal.