After a week of passing the National Investigation Agency Amendment Bill (NIA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment (UAPA) Bill of 2019, the Parliament of India has landed constitutional validity in the national discourse. The NIA Act currently gives power to the officers to investigate under the concurrent jurisdiction which empowers the central agency to probe terror attacks in any part of the country, covering offences, such as challenges to the country’s sovereignty and integrity, bomb blasts, hijacking of aircraft and ships, attacks on nuclear installations, amongst others.
The UAPA has till now allowed the concerned officer and the government to deal with the designation and power to announce any organization or outfit as a terrorist group if it is believed that it is involved in the activities of terrorism in the country.
After the 2019 amendment bills, the UAPA and NIA bill has brought concern over the very fundamentals of the constitution of India. The amendment to UAPA bill will allow the government and the investigating agencies to designate any individual as a ‘terrorist’ in any region of the country.
The NIA amendment bill allows the national investigation agency to have the power to investigate in matters such as criminal activities related to human trafficking, offences related to counterfeit currency, manufacturing of prohibited arms, cyber terrorism and offences under cyber explosive substances Act. All these functions were hitherto performed by the police of the concerned state. This will gradually retrench the powers of police and will lead to difficulty in establishing the federalism.
The amendment to UAPA bill as a law will impinge upon the democratic beliefs of India, such as Liberty and The Right to Life. It will demean Article 21 of the constitution with sabotaging the code of criminal procedure of the country.
According to CrPC, a person shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty by the court of justice. The UAPA Amendment Bill will also cause damage to the spirit of federalism invested in the constitution, resulting in the creation of power struggle as between the state and the central government regarding administrative and order policies. It is because as per the 2019 amendment bill of UAPA, the central government has the power to seize the property of the said designated terrorist under the contemporary amendment Bill of UAPA.
This will then bring the disruption with the state needed machinery to establish the firm spirit of federalism as per the constitution. The amendment bill also vehemently disobeys Article 14 of the Indian constitution which is a fundamental right too. The UAPA bill will lead to stifling the voices of dissent and will mortify the idea of India towards a deliberative democracy.
Moreover, the UAPA amendment bill will go further and massacre the freedom and the personality of an individual without the procedures led by the CrPC of the criminal law. The NIA Amendment Bill of 2019 also aggravates the instability of the fabric of federalism in India. It also gives powers to national investigation agencies to investigate the terror crimes relating to India and in the interest of India but ironically, the amendment of the NIA bill doesn’t define the interest of India specifically just as UAPA does not specify who is a terrorist.
According to the books of law, criminal law is based on territorial jurisdiction. The NIA amendment bill will increase the jurisdiction which is only increased further in the cases of crimes of genocide and the crimes against humanity. As far as the territorial jurisdiction is concerned, the government of India has not yet signed the international criminal court statute.
According to it, if the government signs the statute and a person commits a crime of genocide or against humanity, he will be put on a trial. The Amendment Bill also further allows the agencies to carry out an investigation in foreign lands which will need immediate and long-term diplomatic clout.
As the majority party in the parliament, specifically, the home minister was concerned over international law, the Indian government has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Both of these bills became international laws in 1976 along with the universal declaration of human rights, these two are collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights. And the government has already signed the convention, both the conventions say that the person should be given a fair trial. According to the ICCPR Article 14, Right to Equality Before the Law, the right to be present innocent until proven guilty, the UAPA bill totally desecrates the ICCPR, the Security Council of the United Nations says in 1373 that the government cannot violate the ICCPR. In the same Security Council of the United Nations, 1535 says, “any law you make must counter with the international human rights commission.”
The way forward for the government is that it must look into this bill. It must reconsider the steps taken as both the bills hamper the proper functioning of democracy. To establish a fierce spirit of democracy and the idea of India, we must endeavour to treat liberty and freedom as important principles, without any compromise.
Note: this article was first published here.