By Ayushi Budholia
Published by: 19 August 2022 at 20:43 IST
WHAT IS THE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) ACT, 1967?
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, often abbreviated as UAPA, is an Indian law enacted with the objective of punishing activities that go against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
The Act has been amended many times. The most recent amendment is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 8, 2019. It was passed in the Lok Sabha on July 24th, 2019 and the Rajya Sabha on August 2nd. It received the assent of the president on August 8th.
It is an anti-terror law in which a person can be declared a “terrorist” on a few conditions. Earlier, only organisations were designated as “terrorist organizations,” but now individuals can also be termed “terror suspects.”
The UAPA has the death penalty and life imprisonment as the highest punishments. The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Center deems an activity as unlawful, then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged. Offenders will be charged in the same manner whether the act is performed on foreign land or outside India.
WHO IS UMAR KHALID?
Syed Umar Khalid was born in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, and has lived there for the last 30 years. His father, Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, is from Maharashtra, while his mother is from Western Uttar Pradesh. His father is the National President of the Welfare Party of India and a former member of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, a banned organisation, which he left in 1985.
Umar Khalid is an Indian activist, former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, former leader of the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) at JNU. He was allegedly involved in the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row and is an accused under the UAPA law. Khalid is also associated with United Against Hate (UAH), a campaign founded along with Nadeem Khan in July 2017 in response to the series of lynchings.
WHAT ARE THE CONTROVERSIES REGARDING UMAR KHALID?
The name of Umar Khalid has popped up in many controversies. Some of them are discussed below –
- Jawaharlal Nehru University Sedition Row
Jawaharlal Nehru University is located in New Delhi. Afzal Guru was a Kashmiri separatist convicted of involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. In 2013, his capital punishment was executed secretly.
In 2016, some students organized an event protesting the executions of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat and in support of “the struggle of the Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination”.
Four days after the event, the Delhi Police arrested JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Five other students, including Umar Khalid, went into hiding. After their return 10 days later, Umar Khaled and Anirban Bhattacharya were also taken into custody.
The accused are facing the charges of sedition under IPC Section 124A, voluntarily causing hurt under Section 323, forgery under Sections 465 and 471, being a member of an unlawful assembly under Sections 143 and 149, rioting under Section 147 and criminal conspiracy under Section 120B.
- Bhima Koregaon Incident
In 2018, violence occurred at the annual celebratory gathering at Bhima Koregaon to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, a place in present-day Pune district, which was fought between the then British Indian Army and the Peshwas.
A criminal case was registered against newly elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and student leader from JNU Umar Khalid under charges of “creating communal disharmony’ through the “provocative speeches” they delivered at Elgaar Parishad.
THE UAPA CASE AGAINST UMAR KHALID
The Government of India on December 12th, 2019 enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The said Act amends the Indian Citizenship Act to accept illegal immigrants from the non-Muslim community from neighbouring countries having a Muslim majority, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
There are two groups: one that is against the Act and the other that supports it. Those who are against it are of the view that it is an anti-Muslim law and runs against the secular values of India.
This act sparked a widespread protest all over the country. It first began in Assam, where the protesters maintained that the new provisions of this Act are against prior agreements such as the Assam Accord and that they would cause a “loss of political rights and culture”.
Soon, it was spread in different parts of the country, such as Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, and Hyderabad. Some of these protests took the form of riots in Delhi. The 2020 Delhi riots, or the North East Delhi riots, resulted in property destruction and the killing of many people.
They had their origin in Jaffrabad, in North East Delhi, where a sit-in by women against India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 had been in progress on a stretch of the Seelampur–Jaffrabad–Maujpur road, blocking it.
On March 6, 2020, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Umar Khalid on the basis of a complaint filed by one Arvind Kumar, a member of the Delhi Police crime branch. In his complaint, Arvind claims that one of his sources informed him that the communal riots that broke out in Delhi on February 23, 24, and 25 were “pre-planned.”
According to Delhi police, one of the major reasons which instigated the riots was the provoking speeches of Umar Khalid during the visit of American President Donald Trump to India. On August 1, 2020, Delhi Police questioned Umar over the speeches he delivered at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh along with Khalid Saifi days before the riots.
Investigators had also seized Umar’s mobile phone at the time. On September 14, 2020, Khalid was arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell as an alleged conspirator in the Delhi Riots case. He was booked under UAPA by the Delhi Police.
In charge sheets related to the riots, the police have said Khalid met suspended and jailed Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain and activist Khalid Saifi on January 8 at the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest site against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)-National Register of Citizens (NRC) to allegedly plan the riots. The Delhi Police’s special cell is looking into a larger conspiracy case in addition to multiple cases filed in connection with the riots.
The Karkardooma District Court, on March 21st, 2022, deferred to March 23rd the Order of Bail Plea of Umar Khalid in a case of larger conspiracy in connection with the north-east Delhi riots of February 2020.
The Additional Session Judge, Amitabh Rawat, reserved the order on March 3 after hearing arguments from the counsel appearing for Khalid and the prosecution. On March 24, 2022, the Delhi Court rejected bail for former JNU student and activist Umar Khalid in the 2020 Northeast Delhi violence case.
Umar Khalid has challenged the District Court’s order refusing him bail in the Delhi riots before the Delhi High Court. A division bench comprising of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar, while hearing Khalid’s application on April 22, 2022, said that his speech at Amravati was “offensive”, “obnoxious” and hateful.
“These expressions are being used; don’t you think they incite people? You say things like “aapke purvaj angrezon ki dalali kar rahe the” (your ancestors were acting as agents of the British). You don’t think it is offensive?… It is almost as if we distinctly get the impression that it was only one particular community that fought for India’s independence”.
On May 6, 2022, the Delhi High Court adjourned the hearing of the appeal of Umar Khalid to May 19th, and granted one week for filing the relevant documents.
The Court observed that “In the meantime, parties are at liberty to place on record all docs as may be relevant for adjudication of the appeal within one week from today with advance copy to the other side.”
Umar Khalid is an Indian activist, former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University and former leader of the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) at JNU. He was allegedly involved in the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row and the Bhima Koregaon incident. He is also associated with United Against Hate (UAH), a campaign founded along with Nadeem Khan in July 2017 in response to the series of lynchings. He is also accused under the UAPA law.
The incident can be traced back to the introduction of CAA in the country. It raised protest in many parts of the country. In North East Delhi, riots took place and Umar Khalid was arrested in connection with those riots. His bail application was rejected by the Karkardooma District Court. The Delhi High Court has adjourned the matter to May 19, 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ayushi Budholia is a third-year, BA.LLB student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida.