The Rajya Sabha today i.e., August 2, 2019, passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill, 2019, that seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The House rejected a proposal moved by opposition parties to send the Bill to a select committee of Parliament for further scrutiny. Out of the total members who voted, 147 MPs were in favour of passing the new changes to the anti-terror Bill while 42 voted against it.
One of the contentious parts among the amendments is that it will give the government power to declare any individual as a terrorist. In this regard, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that “it is important to identify terrorists individually and not just terror organisations.”
Key highlights of the Bill are as follows:
- Who may commit terrorism: Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism. The Bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
- Approval for seizure of property by NIA: Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. The Bill adds that if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
- Investigation by NIA: Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
- Insertion to schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). The Bill adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).