By Twocircles.net Staff Reporter
The National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO), an umbrella body of various human rights and civil rights organisations, has launched a petition requesting President Pranab Mukherji to repeal the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The petition, which can be read and signed here, states that misuse of draconian laws has been so widespread that “one is inclined to believe that these enactments are instruments of harassment and repression with political objectives.”
“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,” the petition reads.
It is important to point out that most the accused under the Act are unable to legal help due to poverty, intimidation or inbuilt prejudices. Several bar associations in the country, for example, 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. “This is in contravention of Supreme Court’s direction that bail is the rule and jail an exception. Incarceration of accused of long periods without bail is the default norm in UAPA cases,” the petition adds.
“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,” the petition adds.
In a conversation with Twocircles.net, A Mohammed Yusuf, National Secretary, NCHRO said, “We have been trying to collect data on the number of people arrested under UAPA, but a lot of states have refused to provide information under RTI. The government should be informing people about how this law is used and against whom but instead, it is trying to hide information.” He added that the petition was an attempt to make the government act against the miscarriage of justice.
Along with repealing the Act, the petition also asked the government to set up a high-level commission to investigate cases of UAPA, its indiscriminate application, torture, and arrests on false and fabricated charges.