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Repeal Draconian UAPA Law
Shri. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee,
His Excellency the President of India,
Misuse of draconian laws, either special or general, has become so widespread that one is inclined to believe that these enactments are instruments of harassment and repression with political objectives.
The manner, in which Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is being applied by the law enforcement agencies in various states of the country, clearly shows that it has been used indiscriminately. With UAPA, the authorities having unlimited power to arrest, detain and slap any punishment on anybody anytime merely on the basis of ‘suspicion’ and ‘surmise’.
The UPA government in 2008 silently pushed through much more controversial amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the Lok Sabha, making it as draconian as laws like AFSPA, POTA and TADA. The amendments have made this law more stringent and law enforcement agencies less accountable, despite substantial proof of misuse of the repressive and arbitrary powers of the act.
UAPA discarded the fundamental right of accused to due process and presumption of innocence. Under UAPA, a person’s confession to a crime that he had not formally been charged with could be used by the prosecution as evidence in the court of law. In the country most of the convictions are obtained through human and civil rights violations, including torture. Defendants are tried before the special criminal courts that have few procedural safeguards. The prosecution witnesses are not shown to the accused sometimes.
Most the accused under the act are unable to legal help due to poverty, intimidation or inbuilt prejudices. Several bar associations in the country forcefully prevented their members from representing the “terror suspects”. Lawyers are generally prohibited from counseling their clients during interrogation and have limited participatory rights at trial. Prosecutors aren’t even required to disclose the charges and relevant evidence to defendants.
Under the amended UAPA, a court is barred from granting bail to an accused unless it finds the accused prima facie innocent. In other words the accused has to be treated as guilty unless his innocence is convincingly presented. This is in contravention of Supreme Court’s direction that bail is the rule and jail an exception. Incarceration of accused for long periods without bail is the default norm in UAPA cases.
Far more disturbing is the tendency of endlessly detaining people in jails, without even framing charges and continuing to deny bail to the accused on flimsy grounds. The entire mechanism of the National Human Rights Commission, and state commissions, expected to restrain state excesses, appear either defunct or co-opted in the cases booked under UAPA. While the introduction of several new changes has already made the UAPA exceptionally harsh, the amendment of Section 6 of the law has taken away the little hope for judicial scrutiny to prevent its misuse.
There are examples where ‘posters’, ‘Intelligence gatherings’, ‘Implanted stories’, ‘secret files’, verses from books and even literature were shown as incriminating material. Under the normal procedure of criminal law, these materials would have been inconsequential. Authorities can brand anybody as members of the banned organization and it automatically invoked the provisions of the UAPA, magnifying the seriousness of the charges.
And even once these men win long and tiring battles in courts and are acquitted after years of imprisonment, the terror taint stays, making it extremely difficult to pick up the pieces of their lives and start afresh. Records show that if you have been charged in one terror case, there is every likelihood that you will be linked to all subsequent terror cases with UAPA.Its application increased “against political opponents, minorities, Dalits, tribals and other weakest sections of the society.
There is no sunset clause in UAPA as it is a general law and it will remain effective unless it is repealed. As long as there are laws which can be misused they will be misused. The bad laws are bad. They trample upon our human rights. They overturn many constitutional principles.
We seek the following:-
1. Advise the government to repeal UAPA.
2. Instruct the Government:-
(a) To make a full and complete disclosure of people, who have been detained, arrested, tortured under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).
(b) To rehabilitate and compensate innocents affected by draconian laws.
(c) To make the law enforcement forces effectively accountable for their abuses.
3. A high-level commission must be set up to investigate cases of UAPA, its indiscriminate application, torture, and arrests on false and fabricated charges.
4. To develop a strict mechanism to stop violations of civil liberties.
Our hopes rest on proactive and affirmative action from your end. Thank You.
NCHRO – National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations. www.nchro.org
We appeal to all the right-thinking people, to sign this petition.
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