NEW DELHI: The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) today called for an amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) following the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 from parts of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
Based on the data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) from 2015 to 2020, the RAAG stated that a total of 9,334 persons were arrested in 5,934 cases under the UAPA across the country.
The maximum number of UAPA cases were reported from Manipur (1965) followed by Jammu and Kashmir (1163), Assam (923), Jharkhand (501) and Uttar Pradesh (385). The maximum number of arrests under the UAPA have been reported from Manipur (2383) followed by Uttar Pradesh (1758), Assam (1052), Jammu and Kashmir (851) and Bihar (606).
“As the AFSPA has already been withdrawn in most parts of North East India and the Ministry of Home Affairs in its 2019-2020 Annual Report had already reported an overall 41% reduction in violent incidents and 49% reduction in LWE related deaths (397 to 202) in 2019 as compared to 2013, and significant decline in insurgency incidents by 70%, casualties of security forces personnel by 78% and civilian deaths by 80% in the North-Eastern region, it makes the case for amendments of the draconian provisions of the UAPA especially relating to bail under Section 43 of the UAPA that takes away the discretion provided to the Court or Judge under Chapter XXXIII of the CrPC about the grant of bail”, stated Suhas Chakma, Director of the RRAG.
Highlighting the abuse of the UAPA, the RRAG stated “The fact that Uttar Pradesh with no State-specific designated banned organisation under the UAPA has arrested more people under the UAPA than Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand exposes the abuse of the UAPA. It raises questions as to whether the designated terror organisations are being targeted in the country or those who allegedly committed the offences of causing or intending to cause disaffection against India or offences punishable under section 153A (45 of 1860) or section 153B of the Indian Penal Code.”
“The fact that 420 persons were arrested in 281 cases in Tamil Nadu during 2015-2020 with the arrest of 308 persons in 270 cases in 2019 alone further establishes that there is no link between the invoking of the UAPA and the designated terror organisations”, further stated Chakma.
The RRAG stated despite the police and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) aggressively pursuing the NCRB cases, the average rate of conviction was a mere 5.5% in comparison to the average charge sheeting rate of 52.9% each year during 2014-2020.
The high rate of charge sheets vis-à-vis the very low rate of conviction as well as a considerably good number of acquittals and release on discharge by the court suggests that a large an overwhelming majority of those arrested and charge-sheeted on frivolous grounds or insufficient/without evidence leading to acquittal or release on discharge by the court. During the pendency of the trial, the detainees continue to rot in jail as jail, not bail has become the rule.
“The UAPA made offences of sedition or promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony made terrorist activities. It is indeed the discretion of the executive/prosecution whether to invoke the UAPA or IPC or both for the same offences. The UAPA, therefore, has turned into an instrument to silence human rights defenders, journalists, academics and critics and not deal with real terror offences. India needs to repeal the UAPA to address the real offences of terrorism and not suppress democratic dissent”, further stated Chakma.