Supreme court of India asked the union government to answer the petitions those challenges its decision to amend the Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act (UAPA) under which they have the power to label anyone as a terrorist.
A Bench of high profile judges of supreme court headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the union government on petitions filed by Sajal Awasthi and NGO Association for Protection of Civil Rights, which emphasised on how the newly amended law allowed the government to freely infringe upon the fundamental rights of dignity, free speech, dissent and reputation of an individual.
The petitions explained how the UAPA act provides the centre with “discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers” to classify a person as a terrorist.
“The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 seeks to substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Section 35 and 36 therein. The new Section 35 of the UAPA Act, 1967 empowers the Central government to categorize any individual as ‘terrorist’ and add the name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act,” Mr. Awasthi said.
The petitions filed against this act explained how right to reputation forms a vital part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution and labeling an individual as “terrorist” even before the commencement of any judiciary trial does not go hand in hand with the ‘procedure established by law’.
“The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2). The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose an indirect restriction on the right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society,” it said.
Mr. Awasthi also added that instead of preserving the dignity of an individual, the government is looking to intrude upon it.