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Explained: Why The UAPA And NIA Amendment Bills Ride Roughshod Over India

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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.

Why Are UAPA And NIA Questionable And Domineering?

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.

What Does The International Bill Of Human Rights Say?

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.

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Featured image source: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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