Pune Police have said that five prominent human rights activists are being investigated for offences under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, a tough anti-terror law that was last amended in 2012 to give sweeping powers to law-enforcement agencies. Here is how India’s central laws against terrorism have evolved over the years.
The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987, was at one time the main law used in cases of terrorism and organised crime, but due to rampant misuse, it was allowed to lapse in 1995. The Act defined a “terrorist act” and “disruptive activities”, put restrictions on the grant of bail, and gave enhanced power to detain suspects and attach properties. The law made a confession before a police officer admissible as evidence. Separate courts were set up to hear cases filed under TADA.
In wake of the 1999 IC-814 hijack and 2001 Parliament attack, there was a clamour for a more stringent anti-terror law, which came in the form of The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002. A suspect could be detained for up to 180 days by a special court. The law made fundraising for the purpose of terrorism a “terrorist act”. A separate chapter to deal with terrorist organisations was included. The Union government could add or remove any organisation from the schedule. However, reports of gross misuse of the Act by some state governments led to its repeal in 2004.
In 2004, the government chose to strengthen The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It was amended to overcome some of the difficulties in its enforcement and to update it in accordance with international commitments. By inserting specific chapters, the amendment criminalised the raising of funds for a terrorist act, holding of the proceeds of terrorism, membership of a terrorist organisation, support to a terrorist organisation, and the raising of funds for a terrorist organisation. It increased the time available to law-enforcement agencies to file a chargesheet to six months from three.
The law was amended in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks, and again in 2012. The definition of “terrorist act” was expanded to include offences that threaten economic security, counterfeiting Indian currency, and procurement of weapons, etc. Additional powers were granted to courts to provide for attachment or forfeiture of property equivalent to the value of the counterfeit Indian currency, or the proceeds of terrorism involved in the offence.
The Union Home Secretary told a Parliamentary Committee in 2012 that the proposed amendment in the principal Act was in order to comply with the guidelines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental organisation set up in 1989 to develop policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. India got FATF membership in 2010 on the assurance that it would make suitable amendments in the Act by March 31, 2012. Non-compliance would lead to diminution of India’s stature, and the country could be placed under the “enhanced follow up procedure”, which would require giving a progress report every four months to the FATF, the 160th Report of the Department-related Committee on Home Affairs noted. The report was tabled on March 28, 2012.