Unlawful activity refers to a broad range of illicit acts carried out by a person, business, or perhaps even our own state and federal government. Because of its vastness, it is quite difficult to define illegal acts in plain English. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 defines unlawful activity as any activity that incites an individual or group of individuals to bring about cession or secession in the nation, as well as any activity that undermines our nation’s sovereignty and integrity and incites or intends to incite animosity towards India. To put it simply, the law aims to prevent terrorism and penalise individuals and groups who foster a terrorist atmosphere and disrupt the integrity and sovereignty of India.

Terrorism is anti-human and lacks a religious foundation. India has historically and now been severely impacted by terrorism. The motivations behind terrorism in India can range widely, from regional grievances to religious intolerance. The administration proposed an amendment to the UAPA to stop these practices.

History of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

On December 30, 1967, the president gave UAPA his assent. The primary goal of the bill’s introduction at the time was to effectively stop illegal associations from operating in India, as these groups were actively attempting to undermine the integrity and sovereignty of the nation by disseminating propaganda advocating for its secession. The first amendment to this law was made in 2004. The main modification made by this amendment was to the definition of “unlawful activity,” which now contained the definitions of “terrorist act” and “terrorist organisation” from the POTA that had been repealed. Additionally, this amendment added the term “terrorist gang.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist incident, a further amendment to the UAPA was proposed and passed. This amendment included provisions that were modelled after POTA and TADA. 2012 saw the implementation of the third legal amendment. This modification was made with the nation’s economic security in mind. In essence, it was done to meet FATF obligations.

The features of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act

Below is a quick rundown of the new features brought about by the amendment:

  1. The Act gives the central government the authority to label someone as a “terrorist” if they are discovered planning, carrying out, encouraging, or otherwise connected to any terror.
  2. Before designating someone, the government is not compelled to provide them a chance to be heard.
  3. According to the law, different Western authorities may receive access to the financial and personal data of an individual who has been labelled as a terrorist. 
  4. It allows personnel holding the title of Inspector of the NIA to look into violations under Chapters IV and VI. 
  5. The bill’s provision allowing NIA to conduct raids anywhere without first obtaining authorization from the relevant state government has sparked controversy and concerns from a variety of sources. 
  6. A person identified as a terrorist may file an appeal with the Home Secretary, who must decide how to proceed within 45 days, according to the Home Ministry, allaying concerns about potential abuse of the law. 
  7. Suppose the person is dissatisfied with the Home Secretary’s decision. In that case, they may appeal to the review committee, which is made up of at least two retired central government secretaries and is presided over by a sitting or retired high court judge. Additionally, an appeal could be made in HC or SC after that.
  8. The law’s provisions are comparable to a UN policy that the Security Council uses to put pressure on a state or other body to abide by the goals the UN has set forth without using force. 

Need for the new Amendments

There are numerous reasons why the new amendment is required, not just one. The UAPA needed to be amended in light of the passing of time and the emergence of new terrorist actions. Law enforcement organisations must always be one step ahead of terrorists and their operations. In an attempt to combat terrorism, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 is a new and stricter amendment act that has been revised in light of current events, including the significant increase and aggravation of terrorist organisations, individuals, and their methods and means of spreading propaganda. An amendment to the current legislation was required to effectively step up our fight against the escalating and worsening terrorist actions and put to rest their activities, which are against all of humanity.

Terrorism is anti-human and lacks a religious foundation. The UAPA amendment law does not discriminate against any group of people, political party, human rights advocate, or religion. It is only directed against those who pose a threat to humanity. 

India is not the first nation to designate certain people as terrorists. The following nations already have strict legislation designating each individual as a terrorist:

  1. USA (the nation seen as the champion of human rights)
  2. Pakistan
  3. China
  4. Israel
  5. The European Union and
  6. United Nations Security Council: Generally seen as the human rights champion

The cases that the NIA has filed under the UAPA represent a particularly horrible form of terrorism, with roots that typically extend both domestically and internationally. The authority granted to NIA by this statute ensures that NIA can operate effectively to apprehend offenders with ease. The transfer of power does not imply that the state has lost its prior authority. The NIA has just been given the same authority as the state government. 

The UAPA had loopholes that made it necessary to introduce this amendment. Under the UAPA, only organisations could be targeted for legal action, which nearly always resulted in offenders remaining at large and carrying on with their operations under a different name. One such is Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of the Indian Mujahideen and a well-known terrorist. The fact that there was no strict legislation that could have labelled him a terrorist allowed him to escape. The prior law did not label the founder of the Indian Mujahideen as a terrorist, but it did label the group as a terrorist organisation. Under strict anti-terrorism legislation in effect at the time, Yasin Bhatkal could have been charged and given a term.

Concerns about the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act amendment

The primary concern with this measure is that it violates the human rights of those subject to it. particular human rights, including the right to a legal trial. The government has included a clause in the bill stating that a review committee will consider the case of an individual who has been labelled as a terrorist in an attempt to dispel this myth about the Amendment Act. A person may file an appeal with the Supreme Court or the Honourable High Court at any moment if they are unhappy with the review committee’s decision. A person would not be deprived of their fundamental human right since they would have an endless number of chances to demonstrate their innocence. process follows the 4-step scrutiny process that assures no one’s human rights is compromised.

This bill’s excessive authority granted to a government agency and its potential use as a weapon for political retaliation or vendetta are further causes for concern. To set the record straight on this point, it should be highlighted that the amendment specifies exactly when someone can be labelled a terrorist, eliminating any possibility of it being used illegally. The statute specifies the following clauses that specify when someone may be labelled a terrorist:

  1. when someone commits a terrorist act.
  2. when the individual participates in a terrorist act.
  3. when someone is preparing for a terrorist act.
  4. when an individual indulges in a terrorist organisation that is listed.
  5. when someone disseminates material that has the power to indoctrinate people into supporting terrorism.

The seizure of a person’s personal belongings after being labelled a terrorist is another matter about that person’s human rights. To be clear, the Amendment Act only permits the investigation agencies to attach the property of the individual participating in terrorist activities; it does not let the investigation authority seize the person’s belongings. The final declaration of confiscation of the personal property rests with the court after the proper trial has been conducted.

Criticism of UAPA

The fact that this legislation permits someone to be labelled a terrorist without a formal complaint, charge sheet, or trial is one of the main objections against the measure. “The Centre shall exercise its power under Clause (a) of Sub Section 1 in respect of an organisation or an individual only if it believes that such an organisation and/or individual is involved in terrorism,” states Section 35 Sub Section 2 as modified.

It means that a person will be labelled as a terrorist if the Central Government thinks they are engaging in terrorism. The person will be labelled as a terrorist even though there will be no formal complaint filed, no charge sheet, no trial, and no conviction. 

Opponents worry that this law might be applied as a tool to seek political vendetta according to the whims and fancies of the government in power.


For a law to exist and be implemented effectively, it must rely on us. Assuming that the law would automatically put an end to crime and terrorism is vague. The intent and will of those putting the law into practice determine its outcome.

The core of an organisation is in its members, and this act highlights that punishing an individual will ultimately weaken the propaganda the man spreads through his organisation—propaganda that persists even after it is outlawed since the offending individual is still at large.

Adv.Khanak Sharma(D\1710\2023)

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