UAPA: When laws turn op­pres­sive

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - Htspotligh­t -

that the con­vic­tion rate of those pros­e­cuted un­der UAPA was as low as 14.5% in 2015 and as high as 49.3% in 2017. The to­tal num­ber of per­sons ar­rested in 2018 was 1,421; other rel­e­vant data in­cludes those charge-sheeted (853), con­victed (35), dis­charged (23) and ac­quit­ted (117). Clearly, the rate of con­vic­tion in 2018 was less than 30%. Of those con­victed by the trial court, sev­eral may well be ac­quit­ted by the ap­pel­late court, mak­ing the rate of con­vic­tion abysmally low.

This is proof of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing author­i­ties rop­ing in named ac­cused who are clearly not ter­ror­ists, mak­ing the law and pro­ce­dures un­der it op­pres­sive. Many of them are kept in cus­tody for years be­fore ac­quit­tal. An in­di­ca­tion of the law’s in­dis­crim­i­nate mis­use is re­flected in the kind of peo­ple ar­rested un­der UAPA. Some dis­turb­ing ex­am­ples among oth­ers are: Akhil Go­goi, a Right to

In­for­ma­tion Act ac­tivist; Safoora Zar­gar, a re­search scholar from Jamia Mil­lia Is­lamia; Anand Tel­tumbde and Gau­tam Navlakha, both of whom have done sem­i­nal work in pro­tect­ing In­dia’s most vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, namely the Dal­its and Adi­va­sis; Mas­rat Zahra, a 26-year-old in­ter­na­tion­ally-ac­claimed pho­to­jour­nal­ist; Umar Khalid for al­legedly in­sti­gat­ing the Delhi ri­ots with his speeches at anti-caa ral­lies; and Gowhar Gee­lani, a Kash­miri au­thor and jour­nal­ist, for his so­cial me­dia posts.

The rea­son why nam­ing in­di­vid­u­als is op­pres­sive and vi­o­lates cit­i­zens’ fun­da­men­tal free­doms is be­cause of the oner­ous pro­vi­sions re­lat­ing to bail. First, those be­ing in­ves­ti­gated can be kept in cus­tody for 180 days pend­ing fil­ing of the charge-sheet. Bail is re­fused if the court, on pe­rusal of the case di­ary or upon fil­ing of a charge-sheet, is of the opin­ion that there are rea­son­able grounds for be­liev­ing that the ac­cu­sa­tions against the per­son are prima fa­cie true. It is the set­tled po­si­tion in law that the ac­cused can­not have ac­cess to the case di­ary. As far as the chargeshee­t is con­cerned, the act of tak­ing cog­ni­sance by the court is based on a prima fa­cie be­lief that the ac­cu­sa­tions are true. At that stage, the ac­cused is not heard by the court. This makes the law oner­ous and of­fen­sive, with no hope for the ac­cused to ac­cess bail. Tri­als, too, take long. At the end of 2018, of the 2,008 cases, only 317 were sent to trial. Given the state of the law, an ac­quit­tal at the end of the trial means lit­tle.

The im­bal­ance be­tween fun­da­men­tal free­doms and the larger in­ter­ests of the State is heav­ily skewed against the cit­i­zen. The State uses the law as an in­stru­ment of op­pres­sion, mak­ing democ­racy its vic­tim.

REUTERS

The State is us­ing UAPA against crit­ics of n CAA and the govern­ment

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