The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2019, which enabled the Centre to designate individuals as terrorist.
The CJI-led bench was hearing the petitions filed by one Sajal Awasthi, a resident of Delhi, and an NGO Association for Protection of Civil Rights who sought for for a declaration that "the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 is violative of fundamental rights as enshrined under Article 14 (Right to Equality), 19 (Right to Free Speech and Expression) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India."
The petitioner, who claimed to be a public-spirited person, said that UAPA 2019 seeks to substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Section 35 and 36.
"The new Section 35 of the UAPA Act, 1967 empowers the Central Government to categorise any individual as "terrorist" and add name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act. It is submitted that conferring of such a discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers upon the central government is antithesis to the Article 14 of the Constitution of India," said Awasthi's petition filed through Advocate Pawan Reley.
Submitting that UAPA 2019 strikes at Fundamental Rights of an individual at various levels, the petitioner said that it affected the right to reputation of a person.
"…Right to Reputation is an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and terming/tagging an individual as "terrorist" even before commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it, does not amount to following of 'procedure established by law' and is, thus, violative of right to reputation of such an individual who is being categorised as terrorist and being added in Schedule 4 of the UAPA Act, 1967."
The petition further stated that, "The UAPA, 2019 does not afford an opportunity to an individual, being categorised as terrorist, to present his/her case and let such individuals to live on the whim and caprice of the society thereinafter. The amended Section 35 of the UAPA, 1967 directly and adversely affects the fundamental right to free speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. It is relevant to note here that Right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2)".
"The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society," it said.
Invoking the power under the amendment, the Central Government had on Wednesday declared Masood Azhar (JeM chief), Hafiz Saeed (LeT founder), Zaki Lakhvi (LeT member) and Dawood Ibrahim(wanted in 1992 Bombay blasts case) as terrorists.