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Supreme Court notice to Centre on anti-terror UAPA law

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Sep 7, 2019, 2:05 am IST
Updated : Sep 7, 2019, 2:05 am IST

The top court was moved by Delhi based PIL petitioner Sajal Awasthi and Association for Protection of Civil Rights.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought Centre’s response on public interest suits challenging the constitutional validity of the amended provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019, vesting in the government power to declare a person as “terrorist” and attach his properties.

“We will examine it,” said the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Ashok Bhushan as notice was issued to the Centre on a PIL that has contended that the amended provisions violated the fundamental right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, including life and liberty.

The petitioners have sought declaration that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amen-dment Act, 2019 was unconstitutional on the grounds of its being violative of Article 14 (equality before law), Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (Right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

The top court was moved by Delhi based PIL petitioner Sajal Awasthi and Association for Protection of Civil Rights.

Asserting that the right to dissent is a part and parcel of  the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the PIL petitioner has contended that the right to free speech and expression could not be curtailed or abridged in any manner or circumstances except for those mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The amended statute, in the name of curbing terrorism, the PIL says, vests in the government powers to impose indirect restrictions on the right to dissent.

Such curbs on the dissent, the PIL says, is detrimental to our developing democratic society.

PIL petitioner Sajal Awasthi has contended that the draconian provisions seeks to condemn a person as a “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind on the material against the person being branded as terrorist.

The PIL petitioners have describing the amended provision as an assault on the right to reputation of a person, and has said that the vesting of such a “discretionary unfettered and unbound powers upon the Central government is antithesis of the Articles of the Constitution.”

The petition by Sajal Awasthi has contended that the UAPA, 2019 substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA, 1967) by way of Section 35 empowering the Central Government to categorise any individual as “terrorist” and add name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act for the purpose of attaching his/her properties even without being held guilty by any court of  law.

Further, the PIL petitioner has said that the “Right to Reputation is an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and terming/tagging an individual as ‘terrorist’ even before commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it” amounts to damning a person without following the due ‘procedure established by law’ and thus was violative of right to reputation of such an individual.”

India is a democracy and every citizen has a right to dissent, but the presence of a “draconian” provision in the amended UAPA, 2019 directly encroaches upon the same, says the PIL.

Pointing to the chilling  provision, the petitioner says that the amended provision does not afford an opportunity to an individual, being categorised as terrorist, to present his/her case and leaves such individuals to live on the “whims and caprice” of the society thereinafter.

Tags: supreme court, unlawful activities (prevention) act, 2019
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi