The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has released a report titled ‘UAPA: Criminalising Dissent and State Terror’ on the alleged abuse of the legislation during 2009-22, and demanding the law be repealed.
Based on the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) annual reports during 2015-2020, the study said the per case conviction rate under the UAPA was 27.57% compared with 49.67% in Indian Penal Code (IPC) cases. The per-arrestee conviction rate was just 2.8% against 22.19% in IPC cases. During the check period, 5,924 cases were registered and 8,371 persons arrested.
Based on the total cases registered, Manipur (1,965 cases) stood at the top followed by Jammu & Kashmir (1,163), Assam (923), Jharkhand (501), and Uttar Pradesh (385 cases).
The report said at the heart of “abuse” of UAPA was the issue of bail and conviction rates. “The problem with considering the NCRB figures of number of persons acquitted or convicted is that they probably refer to UAPA cases registered in previous years and not to cases filed in the respective years alone; this is because acquittals and convictions arise only at the end of the criminal trial before the special court...,” it said.
In 2018, of the 1,421 arrests were made and 232 (16.32%) got bail; while in the next year 1,948 were arrested and 625 (32.08%) were granted bail; and in 2020, a total of 1,321 arrests were made and 223 (16.88%) got bail.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), on its website as on August 12 this year, had listed 456 cases of which 78% involved UAPA charges. The report examined the NIA prosecutions in the UPA and the NDA period. “69 UAPA cases were registered...when Manmohan Singh-led UPA regime was in power (2009 to May 2014), whereas 288 UAPA cases were registered in the Narendra Modi-led era (May 2014 to continuing),” said the report.
The average number of cases per year during the UPA regime was 13, whereas it was 34 during the NDA regime. Overall, the maximum number of cases have been registered so far in Delhi (45), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (42), Punjab (29), Kerala (27), Assam (26), Jharkhand (22), Bihar (18), Manipur (18), Maharashtra (16), West Bengal (15), Uttar Pradesh (14), Karnataka (13), Tamil Nadu (13), Andhra Pradesh (12), and Nagaland (7).
The report said that of the 238 cases involving Section 18 (punishment for conspiracy, etc.) charge, no incident has been reported in 64% of the cases (152 cases). It said the NIA’s “suo motu power” (through the Central government/Ministry of Home Affairs) to transfer investigation from the State police was a “serious threat to federalism”.
On the basis of the information available on the NIA website, the report said of all the UAPA cases handled by the agency, 41 (12%) were registered suo motu, whereas 316 cases representing 88% of cases were transferred from the State investigating agencies to the NIA. “It is a moot question as to whether the State governments were consulted or they agreed to these transfers,” it said.
“...A close look at the lives of the victims of State abuse-Muslim minority, Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasis, activists, journalists, academicians, human rights defenders and students - reveals the immensity of the human, emotional, financial suffering experienced not just by those falsely implicated but also by their families,” the report said.
The report also sought repeal of the NIA Act and disbanding of the agency; immediate release of all political prisoners, on bail; action against all the police officials “who have wilfully launched false and fabricated cases against the marginalised communities, journalists, academicians, students and others” and action to provide reparations for those wrongfully accused and released by courts.