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Offence under UAPA 1967

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    31st Mar, 2023

Context

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that even a mere membership of a banned association is sufficient to constitute an offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

  • The ruling lowers the bar for who can be charged under the stringent anti-terror law.

About the Judgement:

  • A three-judge bench of SC has overruled three key precedents on aspect of banned organisation, which had distinguished between active and passive membership of an unlawful association and the crucial difference between ‘advocacy and incitement to violence’.

Advocacy and incitement are two categories of speech, where advocacy is a more specific type than incitement, which directed to producing imminent lawless action and which is likely to incite or produce such action.

  • The bench has upheld the constitutional validity of Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA.
    • Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA says that, “Penalty for being member of an unlawful association, etc.—Where an association is declared unlawful by a notification issued under section 3 which has become effective under sub­-section (3) of that section,—
    • A person, who is and continues to be a member of such association,
  • The rest of Section 10(a) includes a person who takes part in meetings of such association; or contributes to, or receives or solicits any contri­bution for the purpose of, such association; or in any way assists the operations of such association.

Other judgments:

  • In 2011, in Arup Bhuyan v State of Assam’, the Supreme Court bench has said that a “person’s association with an unlawful organisation must be an active ‘membership’ which required actual incitement to violence or the act of committing violence.”

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967:

  • The Act provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.
  • Unlawful activity means any conduct which constitutes a crime or which contravenes any law whether such conduct occurred before or after the commencement of this Act and whether such conduct occurred in the Republic or elsewhere.
  • Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life. In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life.

Criteria for Organisations:

Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:

  • commits or participates in acts of terrorism,
  • prepares for terrorism,
  • promotes terrorism, or
  • Is otherwise involved in terrorism
  • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • The provisions of this Act apply also to
    • Citizens of India outside India;
    • Persons in the service of the Government, wherever they may be; and
    • Persons on ships and aircrafts, registered in India, wherever they may be.

Impacts:

  • On Society:
    • The UAPA was introduced with an aim to recognise and control the unlawful activists and arrest terrorists without providing them adequate escape measures.
    • However, mere part of an organisation becoming a Crime makes vulnerable group like children and women involved more into this, due to less stringent protocols for them.
    • It can also increase the instances of more innocent people being scrutinised and affect their life.
  • On People:
    • They will become less sensitive towards law
    • Legal proceedings may target a particular group/religion for the cause
  • Others:
    • Delay in judicial proceedings
    • Overburdening of Judiciary
    • Unlawful tactics
    • Increase in corruption
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