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The constitution of India versus the unlawful activities (prevention) act, 1967

Author: 
Priyanka Sinha
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

The roots of the Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Amendment are often traced back to colonial times; in 1908 the British Raj implemented the criminal law Amendment Act. This act, for the first time, brought into the purview of the concept of “unlawful association.” At the time, the act was accustomed criminalise the leaders of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Once the Indian government attained freedom in 1947, the administration decided to keep the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment. However, on the flipside, the Nehru government began to use the provision against their own citizens; i.e., against dissidents who spoke out against the policies of the Indian National Congress. In the subsequent years, the Indian Judiciary however held in cases like in – V.G Row v. State of Madras; AK Gopalan v. State of Maharashtra; and also, the Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, in essence, collectively held that fundamental rights of the citizens are often curtailed only within the foremost extreme and within the rarest of the rarest circumstances; which any statute, legislation, or executive decision that aim towards curtailing said rights, will be held unconstitutional. On the concept of these judgements, the judiciary held that Section 124A of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act was unconstitutional as they put arbitrary, and unreasonable restriction on the ability of the citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights.The provisions of the UAPA are violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of India. The freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under article 19(1)(a) and Article 20 and 21 is being crushed by over-empowering the government with the assistance of the draconian act of UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) ACT,1967 and the amendment Act of 2019.To overcome such restrictions put by the Indian judiciary, the first amendment to the constitution was introduced, wherein there was significant tweaking done to the language of Article 19 of the Indian constitution; the phrases “public order” and “friendly relations with states” were added under the purview of “reasonable restrictions”. The consequence of such an amendment was that the phrase “public order” was used arbitrarily by the government in situ of the now-repealed 124A section of the criminal law (Amendment), and dissidents of the government was being rounded under the justification of them violating “reasonable restrictions.” The arbitrariness of the government further increased within the subsequent years; perhaps the foremost prominent example of this was seen in 1963 when India was engaged during a war with China, and to suppress the regional dissidents of the government’s policies and critics of the war against China, the 16th Amendment to the constitution was passed by the Parliament. The 16th amendment further tweaked Article 19 to feature that the government can put “reasonable” restrictions on the interest of “sovereignty and integrity” of the state. This clause was essentially added to allow the government a blank check to detain anyone or groups that demanded autonomy or demanded to secede from the Union.

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