Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019

Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs has extended the ban on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) by notifying it as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

  • The Naga insurgent group, since it was first banned in 2015, has been involved in 104 violent incidents, the MHA said.

Analysis

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019

  • The Act provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.

Who may commit terrorism: 

  • Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
  • (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism,
  • (ii) prepares for terrorism,
  • (iii) promotes terrorism, or
  • (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism. 
  • The Amendment Act additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.  

Approval for seizure of property by NIA: 

  • Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. 
  • However, if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.  

Investigation by NIA:

  • Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. 
  • The Amendment Act additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

Insertion to schedule of treaties:

  • The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. 
  • The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). 
  • The Amendment Act adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005). 

Right to Reputation 

  • Last year, the Supreme Court asked the Union government to respond to petitions challenging its decision to amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act giving it powers to categorise anyone as a terrorist.
  • The petition said the right to reputation was an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and tagging an individual as “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it, did not amount to following the ‘procedure established by law’.
  • The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).
  • The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society.

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