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20 Feb 2012

People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) condemns the notification issued by the Union Home Ministry on February 5, 2012 which appoints the Director of the National Counter Terrorism Centre as the “designated authority” under S2(e) of the Unlawful Activities(prevention) Act (1967). Thereby he derives concurrent powers to “search and arrest” under S 43A of the UAPA. Para 3.1 of the NCTC notification also gives NCTC power to "control and coordinate" all so-called counter-terrorism measures. NCTC was conceived by the Union Government as an agency which will perform functions relating to intelligence, investigation and operations. NCTC also enjoys overriding powers over state government in so far as para 3.5 and 5.1 of the notification requires all authorities including functionaries of the state government, which includes the police department, to provide information, documents and reports to the NCTC. Since NCTC comes under administrative control of the Intelligence Bureau, it means that IB through NCTC will now enjoy policing powers never envisaged for such an unaccountable and opaque agency.

Chief Minister of Odisha was being parsimonious when he claimed that the notification on NCTC carries “draconian implications” because it subverts the federal principle as laid down by the Constitution. Fact of the matter is that UAPA is a draconian law in itself. We would like to recall the fact that the amendments to UAPA, effected in December 2008 after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, was tabled, debated and passed by the Lok Sabha in a single day on December 11, 2008. When the bill was tabled 50 members of Lok Sabha were present, 90 when the Prime Minister spoke in its favour, plummeting to 60 at 3.30 pm and 47 at 6 pm. In other words not one opposition party or MP spoke about the incongruity of such sweeping amendments, which were meant to empower the very same intelligence, operational and investigative agencies which had brazenly failed to contain, if not prevent, the Mumbai attack. The indulgence shown by the Parliament to the very same agencies, which had performed so abominably then, paved the way for changes that are coming home to roost for the opposition parties.

PUDR considers the UAPA as an assault on fundamental freedoms because it seeks to criminalise dissent and ideological differences by proscribing organizations according to the arbitrary whims of the authorities. Thus even legitimate expression of an association and its right to protest become criminal because the party or the group is banned. The definition of “terrorism” and the “unlawful” is so crafted as to criminalise those who critique the present status quo while it treats with kid-gloves acts of mass murders carried out by the government forces and the right wing Hindutva, thus reserving UAPA against everyone else. While the NCTC notification subverts the federal principle and encroachment into state’s domain the UAP Act itself abridges freedom of expression, assembly and association which is the bedrock of democracy.

We, therefore, urge the political parties and the state governments opposing the notification to be mindful of the fact that UAPA is in toto, and not just one or two provisions of the act, are inconsistent with the idea of democracy which the freedom movement had envisaged.

Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan