September 06, 2019

SC Issues Notice On Petition Challenging Constitutional Validity Of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the central government on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2019, which has enabled the government to designate individuals as ‘terrorists’.

The petition was filed by Delhi resident Sajal Awasthi and a non-governmental organization called Association for Protection of Civil Rights.

The petition has stated that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA) 2019, violates fundamental rights as enshrined under Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 19 (Right to Free Speech and Expression) and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India.

According to the petition, UAPA 2019 seeks to substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Section 35 and 36.

The petition has stated that the new new Section 35 of the UAPA Act, 1967 empowers the central government to categorize any individual as a "terrorist" and add the name of any such person in Schedule 4 of the Act.

Conferring such discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers upon the central government is the antithesis of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, according to the petition.

The petition stated that UAPA 2019 strikes at the fundamental rights of an individual at various levels and adversely affected a person’s right to reputation.

According to the petition, the right to reputation is an intrinsic part of the fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, calling any individual a “terrorist” even before a trial begins violates the right to reputation of any individual who has been declared a ‘terrorist’.

The petition stated that UAPA 2019 does not give any opportunity to individuals categorized as “terrorists”, to present their case.

The petition has stated that the amended Section 35 of UAPA, 1967 directly and adversely affects the fundamental right to free speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

The petition has pointed out that the right of dissent is a part and parcel of the fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, it cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).

The petition has also stated that UAPA 2019 has empowered the government to impose indirect restrictions on the right of dissent, under the pretext of “curbing terrorism”.

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