Biggest challenge to a democratic society in the past several decades has been terrorism. Several countries are trying their own parameters to decide what a terror act is and accordingly define their laws to protect humankind. India has various laws to stop terror activities and punish those who are indulged in the same. One of the significant acts of India to counter-terrorism is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which was introduced in the year 1967 to prevent any unlawful activities associations in India. Its primary objective has been to counter activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. This act is generally invoked where the law agencies find situations where individuals or groups like to threaten or likely to strike terror in India to keep law and order in place.
Recently, India witnessed a massive protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Modi Government introduced the CAA to grant citizenship to minority communities from neighbouring states which are not secular. These states have repeatedly witnessed communal violence, force conversions, and attacks on minority groups and law could do very little in those states. The minority doesn’t feel safe in these states due to them being officially Islamic which curbs the rights of those who are non-Muslims. Through CAA, the government of India wanted to provide these minority groups easy access to Indian citizenship on humanitarian grounds who are otherwise being religiously persecuted. Religious groups considered in CAA by the Indian Parliament includes Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Christians. There was widespread violence started in the guise of protests in the national capital of Delhi which soon took shape of Anti-Hindu riots. Shaheen Bagh became the epicentre and even the law enforcement agencies including Police were not spared from the attack.
Law Agencies in India including Delhi Police booked many under UAPA, so for them to face the punishment for their actions. However, Delhi High Court took a different note. When three accused filed bail application in a related case, Hon’ble Judges rather than granting verdict examined the whole UAPA which was not even challenged. Normally, a bail application is heard, and a verdict is given by the judge without examining the crux of the case and not touching the merits for sure. But this case was different. Not only the Delhi High Court granted bail to three accused namely Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha but rather wrote a thesis on the whole Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) undermining the law which was introduced to protect the nation from terrorism.
At a time when the entire world is trying to come together to fight terrorism, this order of the Delhi High Court is not only bad but sets a bad precedence. Delhi High Court refused to consider the terrorism angle in a case where over 50 people died and 700 people were injured.
Delhi Police while appealing against the order of the Delhi High Court before Supreme Court issued a statement,
“We are not satisfied with the interpretation of the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act by the Honourable High Court in a matter concerned with grant of bail.”
Solicitor General of India while representing Delhi Police in the Supreme Court has contended that “Entire anti-terror law, UAPA, has been turned upside down along with the Constitution by Delhi HC in granting bails.”
Entire anti-terror law, UAPA, has been turned upside down by Delhi HC in granting bails to 3 student activists: Delhi Police to SC
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 18, 2021
Though the Supreme Court didn’t cancel the bail granted by the Delhi High Court, it, however, issued notice to the three accused seeking their response. Apex Court was more surprised to see that over 100 pages have been written against UAPA when it was not even challenged.
— Ashwani Dubey (@ashwani_dube) June 18, 2021
Supreme Court while issuing notice showed displeasure with the Delhi High Court and passed an order clarifying that the order will not have precedence anywhere in the country which is a big setback for those who were planning to use the judgment in their favour.
[BREAKING] Delhi High Court order in Delhi Riots case not to be treated as precedent, three accused to remain out on bail: Supreme Court#SupremeCourtofIndia #DelhiHighCourt #DelhiRiotsCase #NatashaNarwal #DevanganaKalita #AsifIqbalTanha
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) June 18, 2021
This episode should be an eye-opening experience for Judges in this nation and they must understand that the position they hold is very important and so is the responsibility.
Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com