Strengthening NIA or curbing fundamental rights: What is UAPA Amendment bill?

New Delhi | A bill which seeks to allow an individual suspected to have terror links to be designated as a ‘terrorist’ was introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday even as the opposition said the provision could prove to be draconian.

The Amendment to Schedule 4 of the UAPA will allow the NIA to designate an individual suspected to have terror links as a terrorist. As of now, only organisations are designated as ‘terrorist organisations’. The amendments will also allow the NIA probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking.

However, the opposition parties have opposed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 claiming that in the name of tackling terror, fundamental rights of an individual cannot be foregone. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor described the amendment bill as “hastily brought”. He said there were several provisions in laws in place to go after individuals.

Tharoor said there is no clarity on the government’s claims that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) finds it difficult to deal with such individuals at present. He said the House should not be kept in the dark on difficulties being faced by the anti-terror agency.

However the Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy, who introduced the bill on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah, said when the United Nations can name Jamaat-ud_Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist, why can’t India do the same with such people. Asserting that the government believes in “zero tolerance” towards terrorism, the minister said a provision is needed to designate “individual terrorist” in the law.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is an Indian law aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. The proposed amendment will empower the Director General, National Investigation Agency to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the NIA.

In 2018 in a major crackdown came in 2019 when Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha were arrested under the UAPA Act. The arrested activist were arrested for their alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence and conspiracy of the assassination of PM Modi were arrested under the UAPA Act.

With Inputs from Agencies..

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