Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah, on July 8, 2019. This bill has been now passed by Loksabha on July 24, 2019. The amendment cleared by the Lok Sabha – 288 members voted in favour and eight against.

While replying to the debate on the bill, Union Minister for Home Affairs, Shri Amit Shah said, “I will try to allay all apprehensions on the bill and I hope it is passed unanimously in the House. Terrorism has to be uprooted from this country. A strict law is utmost necessary in this regard to strengthen the investigation agencies. The urgency of this matter needs to be understood by all.”

Three major objectives of this Bill:

  • This Act allows the National Investigation Agency to attach property of terrorists or terror accused on orders of the NIA chief and not the state government concerned. Earlier NIA had to take permission from state govt to attach the property of terror accused.
  • The second change allows the government to declare an individual as a terrorist
  • The third, empowers inspector-rank officers to probe terror cases.

Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:

  • commits or participates in acts of terrorism
  • prepares for terrorism,
  • promotes terrorism, or
  • otherwise involved in terrorism. 

This Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.

Power Given to NIA officers:

Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police of state to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.  The Bill adds that 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, not the state govt Police.

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 Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

Some people were opposing this bill and saying that This Bill will be misused. Amit Shah questioned arguments from the opposition benches that spoke about the misuse of provisions of the anti-terror law.

“The criminal procedure code is also misused…. So should it also be abolished,”  – Shah asked.

“People charged with murder under Section 302 of the penal code are also acquitted… Should 302 be removed from the penal code,” he asked.

While addressing the House, Shri Shah noted that “An individual’s psychology is the birth place of Terrorism, rather than an institution. If, in the first place, an individual is stopped from attracting other individuals into terrorism by providing ideological and financial support, this menace can be finished”. Hence, designating an individual as terrorist, after following the due process of law, is of prime importance to nip terrorism in the bud, he added.

Fighting terror must not be held hostage to political considerations. Members must rise above political considerations and whole heartedly support a strict law for fighting terrorism and keep the investigation agencies four steps ahead of the terrorists, Shri Shah emphasized.

While introducing the bill in Lok Sabha yesterday, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri G. Kishan Reddy said that during last 5 years, our Government has made continuous efforts to weed out terrorism from all over the country. State sponsored terrorism by Pakistan, especially in J&K, has been dealt with firmly and effectively. Further, terrorism has significantly reduced in the hinterland. Similarly, in North-Eastern states, situation has improved tremendously, the Minister said.

Currently as per section 25 of the UAPA, forfeiture of property representing proceeds of terrorism can only be made with prior approval in writing by the DGPs of the state wherein such property is located. However, many times terror accused own properties in different states. In such cases, seeking approval of DGPs of different states becomes very difficult, and the delay caused by the same may enable the accused to transfer properties etc.

Shri Reddy said that it is essential to attach properties representing proceeds of terrorism at the earliest. This Amendment empowers DG NIA to forfeit a property which represents proceeds of terrorism in relation to an investigation being conducted by NIA, he added.

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