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Stringent UAPA Bill that aims to pin down individual terrorists passed in Rajya Sabha by an overwhelming majority

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The UAPA bill passed 147 to 42, allows designation of individuals as terrorists and gives powers to NIA to attach properties acquired from proceeds of terrorism.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 today Friday afternoon with an overwhelming majority. While 147 MPs voted in favour of the bill, 42 voted against it. The amended law that gives powers to central agencies and states to designate an individual as a terrorist and seize his properties. Even though the Lok Sabha had passed the bill on July 24, the opposition wanted the amended bill to be sent to a select committee. The opposition-sponsored motion was rejected and the bill was passed through a voice vote.

Earlier Union Minister for Home Affairs, Shri Amit Shah, replying to the debate on the Bill, appealed to the House to pass the bill unanimously to send a strong message to the world that terrorists are the enemies of humanity and India is committed to finish terror from its soil. He further added that terrorist acts are committed not by organizations but by individuals.

“Declaring an organization as a terrorist organization will not stop the individuals behind it. Not designating individuals as terrorists, would give them an opportunity to circumvent the law and they would simply gather under a different name and keep up their terror activities.”, said the Home Minister. He also said that only those individuals who participate in terrorist activities, aid those indulging in such activities, propagate the ideology of terrorism and members of known terrorist organizations will be declared as terrorists after this amendment is passed. He added that terrorism is a global problem and the UN along with several other countries, have provisions in their laws to designate individuals as terrorists.

Congress leaders P Chidambram, Digvijay Singh opposed the amendments to the bill saying it would take away the liberty of the individual and could be used for political vendetta. Chidambram claimed that the courts would strike down the law. Replying to the charges, Amit Shah said that the NDA government under Narendra Modi will not resort to political vendetta or see acts of terrorism through the lens of religion unlike UPA which resorted to both political vendetta and linking particular religion with terrorism.

NIA gets additional powers

The Amendment gives powers to DG, NIA to attach properties acquired from proceeds of terrorism. Rejecting allegations that this will take away powers of the state police, the Home Minister said that this law does not take away powers of the state police. When NIA takes up a case having international and inter-state ramifications, all the facts pertinent to the case are with the NIA, and not with the state police. Currently, the law requires that NIA take prior permission from the respective state DGP to attach the proceeds of terrorism. This delays the process as often such properties are in different states, the Minister added.

Praising the NIA’s efficiency, the Minister said during the debate that the NIA’s conviction rate is 91%, which is exceptional by global standards. Among the 278 terror cases registered by the agency, charge-sheets have been filed in 204 cases. Out of the 54 cases where judgements have come, convictions have been made in 48 cases.

Earlier, officers of ranks DSP and above were empowered to investigate cases under UAPA as per Section 43. The Amendment seeks to empower officers with the rank of inspectors and above to do the same. Commenting on the issue, Shri Shah said that this would help solve the human resource crunch in the NIA. The inspector rank officers have, over time, acquired sufficient proficiency to investigate UAPA related cases. Shri Shah added that this move would quicken the delivery of justice in UAPA related cases, which are reviewed by senior officers at various levels.

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