The proposed amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) that enables the government to designate individuals as terrorists will be used “sparingly”, a senior government official said on July 26.
Once the anti-terror law is amended, the first ones to be designated on a priority basis will be Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad’s Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, the official said.
Rules yet to be defined
The government is yet to define the rules that will govern the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The official said the process was non-judicial. It will be decided by officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the “burden of proof” will be on the government.
As of now, there are no specific provisions to initiate legal action against officials who have erred in their decision. The police will be able to act against the individual concerned based on the designation, though the jail term and other punitive actions have not been specified yet.
The official claimed the Bill was in alignment with laws in European Union (EU) countries, U.S., China, Israel and even Pakistan, adding that Sri Lanka started designating individuals after the April 21 Easter terror attacks.
“We faced embarrassment in diplomatic circles earlier this year while convincing the world to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist under UN norms. We were asked why haven't we designated Azhar yet? The UAPA bill is to address this anomaly,” explained the official. The official said it will be a “small list” and the focus will be on “dreaded self declared terrorists” whose parent outfits are already banned under UAPA. “Messaging is important, there should be fear of the law,” said the official.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha this week. It will have to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha to be enacted as a law. Several MPs have expressed concerns about the overreaching aspects of the legislation as it could be used by Centre to harass innocent people.
The first step would be the proposal that has to come from the intelligence agencies. “The information provided by one agency will be corroborated with another, it has to be credible. MHA will examine the proposal and once it is convinced after going through all the records, it will be cleared by the Home Minister and then notified,” said the official.
Once the individual has been designated as a terrorist, he or she could file an appeal before the MHA, either in person or through registered post. Once the appeal has been filed, MHA will have to decide the case in 45 days. The individual will then have an option to appeal before an independent three-member review committee comprising sitting or retired High Court judges. The committee will also be appointed by MHA. The UAPA, enacted in 1967 was first amended in 2004 to ban organisations for terrorist activities.
“In the past 15 years, only 42 organisations like LeT, JeM, SIMI etc. have been banned. An appeal was filed only in one case, that of Dindar Anjuman. The Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments sent strong reports that the ban should not be lifted. The outfit filed an appeal before MHA, they went to the review committee, which also rejected its claims and the outfit did not appeal in any other court after that,” said the official.