What are the controversial provisions of UAPA?

Published: October 23, 2018

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was brought in to empower the state to prevent the unlawful activities and associations. But these special powers have become controversial and have often been the reason for calls which have been demanding repealing of UAPA.

Controversial provisions of UAPA which are prone to misuse:
  • The pre-charge sheet custody (time given to the police to investigate the case) of the accused is extended from the usual 60 or 90 days under general criminal law to a period of 180 days of incarceration.
  • The UAPA also restricts the right of the accused to be released on bail if the court comes to a conclusion, based on police documents, that it appears that he has committed an offence. As a result the accused has to remain behind the bars during the trial period which may stretch for years.
  • The mere invocation of UAPA ensures that conviction is not required for punishment.
  • The UAPA allows the court to presume guilt of the accused if the prosecution proves recovery of arms or fingerprints of the accused on materials associated with a terrorist act. This absolves prosecution from the burden of proving all elements of a crime it charged a person with as mere possession of such materials is sufficient for the court to draw the inference that the arms have been used as well.
  • This violates the cardinal principle of the Indian justice system which is based on innocent until proven guilty.
  • This provision is also prone to misuse as the police can portray false recoveries of materials from the accused after they have been arrested and it burdens the accused with the responsibility of proving that they were in their possession.
  • The definition of the terrorist act in the statue is very broad. As a result there is large amount of discretion vested with the investigating agencies to decide on whether UAPA needs to be revoked.
  • This combination of discretionary power with huge potential for misuse by investigating authorities may result in arbitrary usage against people who oppose the government and its policies.

These controversial provisions are justified as necessary to hike up conviction rates for terrorist acts. But despite these overarching powers, the conviction rate under the law is abysmally low. Hence, the activists argue that the law should have no place in a legal system governed by a democracy and must be repealed.

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