People’s Conference Against UAPA at Delhi

The amendments made to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have become a very serious blow to the basic tenets of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution. Thousands of youths hailing from Muslim, Sikh, Dalit and Adivasi communities are languishing in different jails in India under UAPA. The former repressive laws like TADA and POTA were withdrawn when people protested against the severe and drastic misuse of the law. Also the human rights activists and right thinking people demanded their repeal. The Congress Government allowed TADA to lapse. The UPA Government withdrew POTA as they promised before the General Election.

Unfortunately major amendments to UAPA in 2008 and 2012 have nullified the earlier efforts and today we have the most draconian general law in force, that too without a sunset clause usually coming with special security legislations.

The object of amendments to UAPA is supposed to be combating terrorism. But in practice it is targeted against people involved in raising legitimate protest and democratic resistance. When law enforcement agencies started the implementation of UAPA it reflected their nepotism, racism, religious bias etc. Most people put in jail under the act are poor Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis and even industrial workers.

Some of the following factors make the law unusual and incompatible with universally acknowledged principles and hallmarks of our constitution such as natural justice, equality before law, freedom of speech and expression and right to form association.

 Expands the vague definition of terrorism under existing Indian law to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political and labour protests and other democratic agitation.

 Strengthens the existing power of the Government to ban an organization on limited evidence and with limited rights to judicial review, and to make mere membership of proscribed group a criminal offence.

 Authorizes warrant-less search, seizure and arrest with wide authority and few safeguards, and compulsion of information from third parties without a court order.

 Allows detention without charge of up to 180 days, including up to 30 days in police custody, and create a strong presumption against bail.

 Authorizes the creation of special courts at the state and federal level, with wide discretion to hold in camera (closed) hearings and use secret witnesses.

 Contains no clear provisions or mandatory periodic review schedule that could help safeguard against abuse.

 Places the onus of proof on the accused and not on the prosecution.

It is evident that unless and until UAPA is withdrawn, the lamentable stories of jailed innocents will continue. At this point of time when election to Lok Sabha is very near, everybody should come forward to demand the repeal of this unlawful law. A nationwide movement called PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT AGAINST UAPA is launched by a representative group of concerned citizens in a meeting held at New Delhi on 23-01-2014 for this purpose.

As part of the first phase of the campaign representatives of the Movement visited many states including Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan etc and met dignitaries such as governors, chief ministers, high bureaucrats, human rights activists, political leaders, legal experts, community leaders, media persons and police officials.

A nationwide post card campaign was successfully organised in which more than 2 lakhs post cards were sent to UPA Chairperson demanding repeal of UAPA. A Night Vigil program marked by public gatherings with lit torches and candles was organised at 335 cities and towns across the nation on February 21.

In this connection, a major public programme called People’s Conference Against UAPA will be organised at Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi at 2 pm on Wednesday 5th March 2014.
Many prominent leaders of political parties, renowned human rights activists and community leaders have agreed to address the conference. Representative groups of UAPA victims and their relatives and delegates from different states will also attend the program.

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