UAPA – targetting “Sedition”

UAPA or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act is an Indian Law which deals with preventing any activity deemed “Unlawful” or “against National Interest” by the Indian state. Its stated objective is to deal against individuals or organisations deemed to act against the “Sovereignty and Integrity of India”. After its most recent amendment, made in 2019, it is now possible for the Mad King to designate individuals as “Terrorists” without following due judicial process. Provisions within the UAPA 2019 also allow the Govt to seize the property of any individual designated as a “threat”.

UAPA Protests

UAPA has a low conviction rate of less than 2%. According to data released by the Govt itself (2016 to 2020 period), ~5100 cases were filed against a total of ~24000 people. However only 212 of these 24000 were actually convicted in a court of law after being under detention for years without trial. 386 were acquitted after themselves serving prison terms of greater than 1 year without trial! This also means, that just between 2016 and 2020, over 98% of the people charged under UAPA (23000+) remain in prison without Trial or even framing of the charges.

Lawyer Rongeet Poddar wrote this about UAPA

Neither the Amendment Bill nor the parent statute provides a concrete definition of terrorism. This opens a Pandora’s box. Categorization as a ‘terrorist’ by the executive bears serious consequences, such as social boycott or loss of employment.” Such labeling by the executive could lead to mob lynching by the vigilante groups in India. Calling it a “colourable legislation which bears the potential for abuse by the executive.

Senior Advocate Mihir Desai said the following in his viral lecture made in November 2020.

Preventive detention laws and special legislations like UAPA — anti-terror laws as they are called — allow the state to carve out exception for its own lawlessness. These are the laws which permit the state to claim that we are governed by the rule of law and on the other hand pass such legislations which violate the rule of law altogether. These are the laws which go against the basic tenets of the constitution, such as freedom, equality, right to life, liberty etc. It therefore becomes important to look at these laws which gives an exceptional power to the state over citizens — to arrest them, to detain them, to charge them with offences which otherwise they may not be able to charge them with, keep them behind bars for years together, and also for ensuring that dissent in all forms is crushed.

In practice, the UAPA has been used to crack down on dissident voices speaking against the Mad King, RSS or any corporate house known to be close to the ruling dispensation.

Prominent People arrested under UAPA

Kobad Ghandy – Sedition charges under UAPA for alleged participation in Bhima-Koregaon protests. Acquited in 2016 after 2 years.

Arun Ferreira – Human Rights Activist – Arrested in 2018 on sedition charges. Incarcerated in Taloja Prison for 5+ years without charges being framed or bought to Trial.

Binayak Sen – Surgeon & Human Rights Activist – Arrested since 2016

GN Saibaba – Writer, Professor and Human Rights Activist – First arrested in May 2014.

GN Saibaba

Released a year later after Court order but rearrested immediately on same charges. Charges framed in 2017 under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of the UAPA and Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code. Was finally acquitted by court in Oct 2022.

Dr.Shoma Sen – English Professor and Women’s Right Activist who is currently under arrest for over 5 years for her work with human rights and civil rights work of marginalised religious communities.

Dr.Shoma Sen

Arrested on 6 June, 2018 and later fired from her University Job. Dr.Shoma Sen spent 528 days in prison without even charges being filed. Following her case being taken up by several UN Human Rights experts, charges were finally filed after which she has been repeatedly shifted to various Prisons in different jurisdictions.
USCIRF Link detailing Shoma Sen Case.

Sudha Bharadwaj born in Boston, USA on November 1, 1961 is an activist and lawyer who has lived and worked with Tribal Workers in Chhattisgarh State for over three decades. She is an active member of the Chhattisgarh Daily Wage Workers Committee.

She was arrested on 28 August 2018 under UAPA in the spurious Bhima Koregaon case. On 8 December 2021, she was granted bail by a special NIA Court after serving over 3+years in Jail without charges being filed.

Vernon Gonsalves is an activist and Professor. He and His lawyer wife Susan Abraham, were both working for workers rights.

Vernon and Susan

Vernon was arrested under the UAPA on 28 August 2018 for alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon case. No charges were ever filed and no evidence was submitted in court. His wife’s attempts to secure bail were repeatedly scuttled with no reasons given for the denial – a by now standard practice in UAPA cases. He is currently still languishing in Taloja prison.

Asif Sultan is a Kashmiri journalist writing mainly on Politics and Human Rights in the disputed region of Indian occupied Kashmir.

Aasif Sultan arrested

He was arrested on 27 August 2018 under the UAPA law while working on a story on civil unrest in Kashmir, for interviewing alleged members of militant groups. On October 17, 2019, Sultan received the annual John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award by the National Press Club of America. Asif was granted bail in April 2022, but not released. Instead he was re-arrested and booked under the Public Safety Act.

Meeran Haider is a Student activist leader most known for his role in protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Meeran Haider

He was first arrested on 1 April 2020 under UAPA. He was granted bail by a local court in 14 days but was rearrested and sent Tihar Jail where he remains to this day.

Sidheeq Kappan is an Indian journalist from Kerala.

Sidheeq Kappan

On 5 October 2020, Sidheeq Kappan was on his way to Hathras to write a followup to his earlier story on the Brutal gangrape and murder of a Lower Caste girl. He was arrested on charges of sedition under the UAPA law. He remained in Jail on sedition charges till 9 September 2022. After release, the Enforcement Directorate has filed further charges on Tax evasion grounds.

Father Stan Swamy was an Indian Catholic Priest and Tribal Rights activist for several decades.

Jesuit Priest Father Stan Swamy, incarcerated in an Indian jail since his arrest in Oct. 9, 2020

On 8 Oct, 2020, Father Swamy was arrested on sedition charges under the UAPA law. While in Jail, Father Swamy was denied bail and denied treatment for Parkinsons disease. Father Stan passed away in Jail on 5 Jul 2021.

The aim of the UAPA is clear – to deter any citizen from participating in any protests on any issue against the Govt. The use of the act has been threated against activists who participated in protests against the CAA-NRC, Transgender Bill and the murder of Gauri Lankesh for eg. It has also been used to arrest activists for posting tweets/Facebook posts deemed as seditious by the Govt – which could mean posts critical of the Mad King, the RSS or Adani Group – a corporate house known to be close to the ruling dispensation.

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