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Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) 1967

12th February, 2024 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) 1967

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  • Recently, the Supreme Court denied bail to Gurwinder Singh for alleged crimes under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) 1967.

Accusation and Legal Interpretation:

  • Singh is accused of receiving funds illegally from Sikhs for Justice to promote a separatist agenda for Khalistan.
  • Justices M.M. Sundresh and Aravind Kumar interpreted Section 43D(5) of the UAPA, stating that bail is an exception and jail the rule under this law.
  • Section 43D(5) restricts bail if a prima facie case exists against the accused based on police records without delving into evidentiary value.

Brief Facts of the Case:

  • Punjab police received information about banners promoting Khalistan on October 19, 2018.
  • Sukhraj Singh and Malkeet Singh were apprehended, leading to charges under sedition and related laws.
  • Investigation revealed a module of Sikhs for Justice involved in promoting Khalistan, resulting in the arrest of Gurwinder.

NIA Investigation and Charges:

  • NIA took over the case in April 2020 and charged eleven individuals with funding terrorism and promoting separatist ideology.
  • Accused allegedly received funds through illegal means, including hawala transactions, for terrorist activities and procuring weapons.
  • Javed Khan, an ISI handler, was implicated in coordinating operations.

Legal Proceedings and Bail Rejection:

  • Gurwinder's bail was rejected by NIA court in December 2021 and upheld by Punjab and Haryana High Court in April 2023.
  • Supreme Court heard the case based on a special leave petition.
  • Defense argued against bail citing lack of incriminating evidence and prolonged incarceration violating fundamental rights.
  • Prosecution opposed bail citing grave nature of charges and UAPA's bail restrictions.

Supreme Court's Ruling:

  • Court interpreted Section 43D(5) of UAPA, emphasizing bail as the exception.
  • Prima facie examination for bail under UAPA relies on case diary and final report without delving into evidence.
  • Court set a twin-prong test for bail under UAPA, focusing on prima facie truth of accusations and the 'tripod test' to assess flight risk, witness influence, and evidence tampering.
  • Delays in trial and severity of charges do not automatically warrant bail under UAPA, as per the court's ruling.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) stands as India’s most stringent anti-terror legislation, albeit with contested provisions. Its enforcement stems from the nation's history of terrorism, necessitating robust measures for national security.

Overview of UAPA:

  • Enacted in 1967, the UAPA originally aimed to counter secessionist movements and anti-national activities.
  • Subsequent amendments, notably in 2019, broadened its scope to include provisions addressing terrorist financing, cyber-terrorism, and individual designation.
  • Empowers the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for nationwide enforcement and prosecution under UAPA.
  • Prescribes severe penalties, including death penalty and life imprisonment, for terrorist acts.

Key Provisions:

  • Allows for preventive detention of suspects without charge for up to 180 days and denial of bail unless proven innocent.
  • Defines unlawful activities to encompass actions undermining India’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.
  • Defines terrorism as acts causing death, injury, or property damage threatening national unity or security.

Analysis of UAPA Usage:

  • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates delays in filing charge sheets under UAPA cases, raising concerns about procedural efficacy.

Arguments in Favor:

  1. National Security: UAPA proponents argue its necessity in safeguarding national interests against terrorist threats.
  2. Counterterrorism Measures: Seen as comprehensive legislation aiding law enforcement agencies in combating terrorism effectively.
  3. Preventive Detention: Essential for averting potential threats, especially when evidence for formal trials is lacking.
  4. Global Commitments: Aligns with international efforts to combat terrorism, enhancing cooperation with other nations.
  5. Effective Prosecution: Provides legal framework and tools for prosecuting terrorists, aiding in convictions.
  6. Deterrence: Severe penalties deter individuals and organizations from engaging in unlawful activities.

Arguments Against:

  1. Violative to Fundamental Rights: Criticized for infringing on constitutional freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.
  2. Lacks Safeguard Mechanism: Absence of adequate checks and balances leads to potential misuse of power by authorities.
  3. Against Federal Structure: Encroaches upon state powers and undermines federalism by centralizing authority.
  4. Low Conviction Rate: Indicates inefficacy and arbitrary application, potentially leading to harassment of innocents.

Judicial Perspectives:

  • Supreme Court rulings, including Arup Bhuyan vs State Of Assam (2011) and Union of India v. K A Najeeb (2021), offer guidance on interpreting and applying UAPA provisions.
  • Recognizes the importance of dissent while emphasizing the need to balance security concerns with individual liberties.

Reform Suggestions:

  1. Amendments: Refine definitions to exclude constitutionally protected activities, ensuring clarity and fairness.
  2. Burden of Proof: Shift the burden to prosecution to prove guilt, maintaining fairness in legal proceedings.
  3. Review Mechanism: Establish impartial oversight to scrutinize government decisions on designations and bans.
  4. Last Resort Usage: Reserve UAPA application as a last resort, prioritizing dialogue and reconciliation.


  • While UAPA remains indispensable for counterterrorism efforts, balancing its enforcement with safeguarding individual rights remains paramount. Addressing concerns through thoughtful amendments and judicious application ensures effective counterterrorism measures without compromising democratic principles.


Q. What is the primary interpretation of Section 43D (5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) as discussed in a recent Supreme Court ruling?

a) Bail is granted as a rule and jail as an exception, emphasizing the accused's right to liberty

b) Bail is restricted, with the presumption of innocence outweighed by the severity of charges under the UAPA

c) Bail is determined based on the accused's financial resources and social standing, irrespective of the charges

d) Bail is granted based on the court's discretion, considering the accused's cooperation with the investigation

Correct Answer: b) Bail is restricted, with the presumption of innocence outweighed by the severity of charges under the UAPA


Q. Examine the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in India, assessing its efficacy in combating terrorism while addressing civil liberties concerns.