The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to centre on PILs challenging the constitutional validity of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019
The amendment confers special power to the central government to designate an individual as a terrorist.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, said that the court will examine the matter and issued notice to the centre seeking a response.
The SC was hearing two PILs filed by Delhi resident Sajal Awasthi and an NGO Association for Protection of Civil Rights.
The pleas, citing a citizen’s right to dissent, said that the act “violates the fundamental rights as enshrined under Article 14: Right to Equality, Article 19: Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and Article 21: Right to live of the Constitution of India.”
The plea filed by Sajal Awasthi challenged the constitutional validity of Section 35 and Section 36 of the recent amendment in UAPA enabled the government to notify an individual as a terrorist, while under UAPA, 1967, only organisations could be notified.
Awasthi’s petition stated, “The new or amended Section 35 of the UAPA Act, 1967 empowers the Central government to categorise any individual as terrorist and add the name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act. Conferring of such a discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers upon the Central government is antithesis to Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
The amendments in empower the 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, the plea said.
The petition had also stated that UAPA, 2019 also violates the right to reputation — an integral part of the right to life, by terming or tagging an individual as terrorist even before the commencement of trial.
The petitioner said that it affected the right to reputation of a person.
This comes two days after the central government, invoking the powers under the amendment declared Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, LeT’s military commander, Zaki-ur-Rehman-Lakhvi and gangster Dawood Ibrahim as terrorists.
On Thursday, the United States commended India’s decision to use the new anti-terror law and declare them terrorists.
Last month, the parliament, after heated debates and discussions gave assent to the legislation under which individuals can be declared as terrorists, their properties seized, and that put travel ban on such individuals.