PIL in SC challenging amendments to UAPA Act

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Act, 2019, notified by the Centre, to designate an individual as a terrorist.

The PIL was filed by a resident of Delhi, Sajal Awasthi, who moved the top Court urging it to declare the amendment unconstitutional. The Act is in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 (right to equality), 19 (right to free speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) in the Constitution, said the petitioner. Earlier, under UAPA 1967, only organisation could be notified as terrorist.

The petition contends that the new section 35 of the UAPA Act allows the Centre to categorise any individual as terrorist and add the person’s identity in the Schedule 4 of the Act. Therefore, this leads into the accumulation of huge powers, which is unfettered and unbound, is antithesis to the Article 14 of the Constitution.

“Right to Reputation is an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and terming/tagging an individual as “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it, does not amount to followance of ‘procedure established by law,” said the petitioner.

The PIL further contends that the UAPA 2019, does not grant an opportunity to an individual to defend itself from being categorised as a terrorist.

“The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society. India is a democracy and every citizen of India has a fundamental right to dissent”, said the petitioner contesting the amendment to the Act. The procedure for the categorisation of an individual as a ‘terrorist’ is flawed and devoid of any impartial approach.

The petitioner has urged the top court to pass an order in favour of the petitioner in the interest of justice, equity and good conscience.