Mar 11, 2022

Umar Khalid’s arrest and the law on unlawful activities

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid was arrested yesterday for his alleged role in the Delhi riots that broke out in February over the Citizenship Amendment Act. Khalid was arrested by the Delhi Police special cell under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 i.e., UAPA.

What is an ‘unlawful activity’?

The UAPA aims to effectively prevent certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations, and also deals with terrorist activities.

An “unlawful activity” can include:

  1. a) any action which is done to bring about the surrender of Indian territory;
  2. b) any action that supports the withdrawal of a part of Indian territory from the larger Union of India;
  3. c) actions that question or disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country; or
  4. d) any action which causes (or wants to cause) discontent against India.

The UAPA punishes anyone who takes part in unlawful activities, or who assists in committing such unlawful activities. If you carry out any unlawful activity, you can be punished with imprisonment for up to seven years, and a fine.

Unlawful associations

Unlawful activities can be undertaken by both individuals as well as associations (groups of individuals). An unlawful association is a group which encourages or assists any unlawful activity. If the government thinks that any association is an unlawful association, it can declare that association to be unlawful.

When an association has been declared as unlawful, any person who is a member of the association and who continues to be a member, can be punished. Individuals can also be punished for taking part in the association’s meetings, or contributing to the association. If you are a member of any unlawful association, you can be punished with imprisonment for up to two years, and a fine.

Getting bail under the UAPA

Special laws like the UAPA have additional conditions for an accused person to get bail.

The UAPA has special bail conditions for a person accused of being involved in a terrorist activity or involved with a terrorist organisation. In such cases, the person cannot get bail unless the government’s lawyer has heard the bail application of the person asking to be released. Further, a person accused of terrorist involvement cannot get bail if the court thinks that there is a reasonable possibility that he actually committed the offence that he has been accused of. 

If a UAPA offence is committed by a person who is not an Indian citizen, or a person who has entered India illegally, the court will not give bail. Such a person can get bail only in very exceptional circumstances and the court has to record the reasons for granting bail.

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