(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 16, 2012
THE UAPA BILL 2011
‘Drop the Draconian Provisions’
Below is the text of the speech given by CPI(M) MP Sk Saidul Haque in the Lok Sabha on November 30, 2012 while participating in the discussion on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2011 (UAPA)
THE government says that this Bill seeks to amend UAPA Act 1967 in order to make it more effective in preventing unlawful activities and meet commitments under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regarding policies to combat money laundering and terror financing.
The Bill seeks to amend the definition of a person, definition of property, definition of `terrorist act’ by including threats to economic security of India and damages to its monetary stability.
The Bill enlarges the scope of punishment for raising funds which will be used or are likely to be used for committing terrorist acts. The Bill seeks to increase the period for which an association can declared as unlawful from the present two years to five years. The Bill inserts new sections to include offences by companies, societies or trusts. The Bill also proposes to confer additional powers upon the court to provide for attachment or forfeiture of property equivalent to counterfeit Indian currency involved in the offence, and property equivalent to the value of the proceeds of terrorism involved in the offences.
Now, my first point is if the main objective of the Bill is to expand the definition of terrorist act to include acts that threaten the economic security of India and damage its monetary stability of production through smuggling or circulation of high quality counterfeit Indian currency, there are already a number of laws and Acts to do it. If needed, a separate Bill should be brought specifically dealing with this particular subject. But without doing so, including it in UAPA Act would leave scope for it being misused.
What is our experience with UAPA so far. The UAPA was amended in 2004 by criminalising raising of funds for a terrorist act. The UAPA Act was further amended in 2008 by enlarging the scope of the provision of funds to ensure a broader coverage of the financing of terrorism offences. The 2008 amendments practically brought back some of the draconian provisions of POTA that were made during the NDA regime.
As a result of these amendments, in many cases Muslim youth have become the most vulnerable targets. The draconian provisions of UAPA are being used to deny the normal processes of justice, while there is no time bound procedure for the judicial processes.
In some cases, these young men have been incarcerated for 10 to 14 years as undertrials and then finally acquitted by the courts as being innocent. Several reliable groups of concerned citizens and organisations, including Jamia Teachers Solidarity, who have collected the details of these cases, have revealed how the court judgements themselves have strongly indicted the investigation agencies for the biased mentality against the Muslim youth and for the manipulation and presentation of concocted evidence against innocent young men in several cases. Many of them were arrested arbitrarily when they were just eighteen or nineteen years of age, implicated in dozens of cases, incarcerated for over ten years and each of them was held to be innocent by the courts. This happened in Delhi, UP, Maharashtra, J&K, Andhra Pradesh and in other states also. I can provide the list of such persons.
No compensation has been paid to them nor any rehabilitation done. Also no punishment has been given to the investigating officers who have concocted or misrepresented the evidence, for which these innocent youth were forced to spend important years of their lives in jail. The government has failed to ensure accountability of the guilty police and intelligence officials.
At the time of the passage of the 2008 amendment of the Act, our Party had warned of the consequences of keeping many provisions which were akin to the draconian TADA and POTA. Experience has shown the legitimacy of the apprehensions expressed at that time.
In this backdrop, the government has come out with more amendments to the Act without reviewing and reconsidering the draconian provisions that have already been there in UAPA. Review and reconsideration of UAPA is the urgent need of the time. Without doing so, such amendments will keep open the possibility of misuse once again.
The first objection to the present Bill is about the definition of a “person” which include - (i) an individual (ii) a HUF (iii) a company (iv) a firm (v) an association of persons (vi) any agency, office or branch owned and controlled by any person falling within any of the preceding sub-clauses.
This is a serious thing. A person means a person only and the terminology should be restricted to its general usage in criminal law. The parliamentary standing committee has also recommended to that effect.
At the same time, bringing an association of persons or body of individuals under the definition of a person will or may give leverage to the investigating officers and could lead to harassment. This provision may allow misuse of the Act because a person who may be completely unaware of the terrorist activities done by other person of that body or organisation, will be subject to punishment or harassment.
The same possibility is very much present where it is told about raising funds. It is proposed that ‘funds to be used or intended to be used for aiding or supporting terrorist activities’. Now, the question is by what mechanism will it be proved that the funds were intended to be used for terrorist activities. Is there no chance of misuse? This provision may even paralyse statutory bodies which are supposed to protect the rights of citizens like Human Rights Commission.
UAPA has failed to curb the problem of ‘Maoist’ menace or the terror activities of militant groups of North-Eastern states which have their own private militias and raise financial resources by extorting money from agencies of development projects. But after the Mumbai attack on 26/11, the 2008 amendments were targeted at a particular community of the country. A glaring aspect is the provision for confiscation of movable or immovable property on the basis of the material evidence even where the trial cannot be concluded on account of the death of the accused in the proposed Bill. How can this be right or just.
Hence my suggestion is that the government should defer passing the Bill now until it reviews, reconsiders and drops the draconian provisions of UAPA.