IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

16th September, 2020 Security

Context: Students and activists have been charged under provisions of the anti-terror law in the Delhi riots case.

What makes UAPA such a tough law, and how have the police justified invoking it?

  • Umar Khalid have been booked and police have invoked provisions of the UAPA to investigate the alleged “larger conspiracy” behind the Delhi riots.

What is the UAPA, and what is it used for?

  • The UAPA is primarily an anti-terror law – aimed at “more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities”.
  • It was first promulgated in 1967 to target secessionist organizations, and is considered to be the predecessor of laws such as the (now repealed) Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
  • Following the last amendment in 2019, an individual can be designated a terrorist; only organizations could be designated earlier. UAPA cases are tried by special courts.
  • The law has been used in cases other than those of conventional ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist acts’. It has of late been invoked against activists, student leaders, and journalists.
  • UAPA cases have been filed against activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case; at least two journalists in Kashmir; Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, members of the women students and alumni collective Pinjra Tod; former Congress municipal councillor Ishrat Jahan; Khalid Saifi of the organisation United Against Hate; Jamia Millia Islamia student Safoora Zargar; and now, Umar Khalid.
  • The Act defines unlawful activity as any action — spoken or written words, signs, or visible representation — which is intended or supports any claim to bring about secession of any part of India or which incites anyone towards secession; disclaims, questions, disrupts or intends to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; and “which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India”.
  • The word “disaffection” has not been defined in the law, and finds mention only once.
  • Section 13 (“Punishment for unlawful activities”), provides for up to seven years in prison for anyone who “advocates, abets, advises or incites the commission of any unlawful activity”.
  • Section 16 (“Punishment for terrorist act”) specifies punishment with death or imprisonment for life in case a death has occurred as a result of the act.
  • The law defines a terrorist act as one that is intended to threaten or is likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, or sovereignty of India, and causes or is likely to cause death or injuries, and property damage.
  • Section 17 provides for punishment for raising funds for terrorist acts, and Section 18 deals with conspiracy behind the terrorist act or “any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act”.

What makes the UAPA more stringent than other laws?

  • An accused cannot seek anticipatory bail, and the period of investigation can be extended to 180 days from 90 days on the public prosecutor’s request — which means the accused has virtually no chance of getting bail by default.
  • In UAPA cases, the police custody can also be extended to 30 days as against the 15 days allowed in ordinary criminal cases.


Explained: What is UP’s new Special Security Force, and why was it needed?

Context: Uttar Pradesh, UP Special Security Force, that allow arrests “without warrant” or the “order of the magistrate”, the state government has claimed that the force, is no different from special forces like the CISF at the Centre, or those in states like Odisha or Maharashtra.

What is the UPSSF?

  • The force was announced to guard important institutions and persons.
  • The proposed force was envisaged as having “high-level professional skills”, which would reduce the burden on the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), which could then focus on law and order.
  • The new “state vital installation force” would protect courts, airports, banks, the Metro, industrial units, places of worship, as well as individuals.
  • It claimed that Maharashtra and Odisha had similar forces.

Why was such a force needed?

  • The force has been constituted to provide “better protection and security of a body or a person, or the residential premises” notified by the state government, and vital installations including courts, “administrative offices, shrines, Metro rail, airports, banks, other financial institutions, industrial undertaking,” etc.
  • The Act lays down its purpose as “to maintain the smooth and strong security arrangements of the vital establishments and of notified persons, as at the Centre and in other states, there is no special security force established in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • “The work of protecting these sites and persons is being done by the police and Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary Force, which are not specially trained and skilled for this task.”

So what is the controversy about?

  • Subsection (1) of Section 10 (“Power to arrest without warrant”) of the UPSSF Act says: “Any member of the force may, without any order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, arrest any person, who voluntarily causes hurt…”, or a person against whom there is a “reasonable suspicion”, or any person, who attempts to “commit a cognizable offence”.
  • The force will also have the right to remove trespassers on the premises under its protection.

Do other Acts have a similar provision?

  • Section 11 of the CISF Act, 1968, lays down the “Power to arrest without warrant”.
  • Section 16 of the Maharashtra State Security Corporation Act, 2010, under the “Power to arrest without warrant”
  • Section 11 of the Odisha Industrial Security Force Act, 2012, also defines “Power to arrest without warrant”.
  • These Acts also have similar provisions for not just making arrests, but also “search without warrant”.

OK, and are their ways in which the UPSSF Act differs from the other Acts?

  • The UPSSF has a wider remit – it will provide security to not just to a body but also to “a person”, and to “the residential premises”.
  • The Maharashtra Act defines “Vital Installations” as “establishments, which if damaged or sabotaged, affect the economy, safety and security of the country or state” – for example, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, atomic power stations, power grids, etc.
  • The UPSSF’s definition of “Installation”, by contrast, also includes “statue” and “monument”. The UP Act defines “Establishment” as both public and private buildings.

What about the protection available to the force itself?

  • Sections 15 and 16 of the UPSSF Act, 2020, offer “protection of action taken in good faith” and “cognizance of offence”.
  • This is a sweeping protection – no court will be able to take cognizance of the offence against any member of the force without prior sanction from the state government.