Misuse of UAPA – Responsible must not escape punishment

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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It is high time to do away with draconian laws like UAPA or to use these in rarest of rare cases.

THERE IS A tendency to confuse government with the nation. There are people, particularly the Andh-bhakts, who believe that any criticism of government is an act of treason against the nation. Similarly if there are protests against the government, it is presumed that these are against the country.

seditionThe proof of such a tendency is the rampant misuse of laws, particularly the draconian laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and laws dealing with sedition and secession.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of persons booked under these laws. Many a times these laws are invoked for holding protests and even writing on social media including Twitter.

The sedition laws, a relic of the British Raj, has also been grossly misused against the citizens. The United Kingdom had enforced the law to curb the freedom movement and had abolished the law in the country of its origin.

However it continues to be misused in free India and despite the courts striking down several cases registered against the law.

Various courts have recently intervened to protect the rights of the citizens by calling out the bluff and excesses of the government and its agencies.

seditionRecently a court threw out of a case of sedition against well known journalist Vinod Dua who had been taking a critical look at the functioning of the government.

The court said that mere strong words used to express criticism of the measures taken by the government with a view to suggest improvement by lawful means is not sedition.

In the latest such instance the Delhi High Court, while granting bail to three student activists, said it clearly that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, the government had “blur

red the line between the right to protest and terrorist activities”. It warned that if the two are regarded as same offence, the country’s democracy will be in peril.

The three student activists had remained behind bars since over a year after they were arrested for inciting others to protest during the agitation against Citizens Amendment Act.

Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha

These students Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha were charged under UAPA.

The court said they found no specific allegation that the accused invited violence “what to talk of committing a terrorist act” as understood under the UAPA.

The bench commented that the right to protest is not illegal and cannot be termed as a “terrorist act”.

The grant of bail to the student activists and the comments made by the three member bench of the Delhi high court should lead to the government to restrain its law enforcing agencies to desist from applying such harsh laws on protestors.

UAPAWhile commenting on the UAPA cases against the three Delhi students, the high court came up with a very important point. It said that the frequent use of serious penal provisions would only trivialise them.

It also pointed out that “the foundations of our nation stand on surer footing than to be likely to be shaken by a protest, however vicious, organised by college students…. In the heart of Delhi”.

There are enough laws in the country to deal with any crime. It is high time to do away with draconian laws like UAPA or to use these in rarest of rare cases. Also those misusing such laws must not escape punishment.

Also Read: “Dear Kind Judge Sahib” – Renowned playwright and poet, Swarajbir on the death of Prof Mahavir Narwal


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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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