Centre’s Response Sought on Pleas Challenging New Anti-Terror Law

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Supreme Court of India

NEW DELHI (PTI) — The Supreme Court Friday sought the Centre’s reply on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of amendments made to the UAPA provisions empowering the state to designate individuals as terrorists and seize their properties.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Ashok Bhushan, took note of the pleas filed by Delhi resident Sajal Awasthi and NGO ”Association for Protection of Civil Rights” (APCR) against the amended provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“Issue notice,” the bench said moments after senior advocates Shekhar Napahade and Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for APCR, commenced their submissions.

Awasthi, in his plea, said the amended provisions were violative of citizens’ fundamental rights such as right to equality, freedom of speech and expression and right to life and liberty.

The UAPA, 2019 empowers the government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose an indirect restriction on the right to dissent which is detrimental to developing democratic society, the plea said.

The bill for amendments to the UAPA was passed by Parliament on August 2 and it received the President’s ascent on August 9.

The amended law also provides for putting a travel ban on such individuals once they are declared as terrorists.

APCR, in its separate plea filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, said the amendments infringed upon the fundamental right to reputation and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution, without substantive and procedural due process.

“Notifying an individual as a terrorist without giving him an opportunity of being heard violates the individual’s right to reputation and dignity, which is a facet of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the plea said.

It added that condemning a person unheard on a mere belief of the government was unreasonable, unjust, unfair, excessive, disproportionate and violated the due process.

“A person who is designated a terrorist, even if he is de-notified subsequently, faces a lifelong stigma and this tarnishes his reputation for life,” the NGO said in its plea.

It further said section 35 of the amended Act did not mention when a person could be designated as terrorist.

“Whether on a mere registration of an FIR or upon conviction in a terrorism related case, designating a person as a terrorist on a mere belief of the government is arbitrary and excessive. A person is never informed of the grounds of his notification, so the remedy of challenging his notification under section 36, as provided for in the Act, is rendered practically otiose,” it said.

The petition contended that the amendments were grossly disproportionate and had no rational nexus between the objects and means adopted to meet them.

“It is unclear as to what legitimate aim does the state seek to achieve by declaring a person as a terrorist without even providing an efficacious remedy to challenge his notification,” it said.

The petition sought a direction from the court declaring sections 35 and 36 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act as unconstitutional and void as those violated the fundamental rights of individuals.

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