Amended UAPA: Onus of proving innocence lies on the accused now
The new Act also gives the central government undefined powers to categorise an organisation or an individual as a ‘terrorist’
Despite the Opposition's demand for its scrutiny by a Standing Committee, followed by a walkout, the Lok Sabha has passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, which seeks amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, with 278 members voting in favour and eight against.
Some of the notable points of the new Act:
1. Contrary to the established principle of law that an accused is ‘innocent until proven otherwise’, the amended UAPA puts the onus of proving their innocence on the individual/organisation.
The Section 38(1) of the Bill reads: “A person, who associates himself, or professes to be associated, with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities, commits an offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation:
“Provided that this sub-section shall not apply where the person charged is able to prove that he has not taken part in the activities of the organisation at any time during its inclusion in the Schedule as a terrorist organisation.”
2. Clause 35 (3)(d) of the Act gives the central government undefined powers to categorise an organisation or an individual as a ‘terrorist’.
The Clause reads: “Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism. The Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
3. The Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) empowered to approve seizure of the property of the accused.
4. The Act empowers the central government to add to or remove from the proposed Fourth Schedule, the name of an individual terrorist and other consequential amendments relating to it.
5. The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). The Bill adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).