Safoora Zargar and more recently Umar Khalid were charged under the controversial UAPA. But what exactly is UAPA and what is its purpose?   

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Source: Scroll

What is UAPA? 

UAPA  or the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) (UAPA) Act is an Indian law that was introduced in the year 1967. It was then introduced as an anti-terror act wherein the government was only empowered to designate 'organisations' as terrorists or organisations who indulge in terror activities.   

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Source: DNA

Has UAPA's amendments changed since 1967? 

Yes. Over the years, there have been many amendments that have been passed for this act (ex. in 2004, 2008, 2013) and they have only been getting more stringent. The latest amendment for this act was passed in July 24th, 2019 in Rajya Sabha ( UAPA Amendment Bill 2019) in which the central government can declare an individual or an organization as a terrorist on certain conditions.  

What are the conditions to declare an individual as a terrorist as per UAPA Bill 2019? 

There are namely three conditions by which the central government can declare a person or an organization as a terrorist. 

- Who takes part or commits any sort of terror activities. 
- Those who advocate or prepare for terror activities.   
- Anyone who is helping in any way to prepare for these unlawful activities.    

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Source: News18

How does the government declare individuals terrorist? 

The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette and add his name to the schedule supplemented to the UAPA Bill. However, the government is not required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard which is a right given to everyone in a democracy.   

Why is the recent UAPA Amendment Bill controversial? 

The information which declares a person a terrorist can be withheld from him/her for a matter of 6 months. That means if a person is termed as a terrorist they can't know what are the activities they are booked for this period of time. Moreover, getting bail is almost impossible when one is booked under this law.    

What happens when an individual is declared a terrorist?  

In general when a person is a tagged as a terrorist, the designation is shared by the UN. The person has to go through travel bans, freezing of assets and an embargo against procuring arms. 

Who can conduct investigation according to the UAPA Amendment Bill 2019? 

Earlier the act said that an investigating officer required prior approval of Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism. However, now the bill gives authority to the NIA officers, of the rank of Inspector or above to investigate cases.   

In conclusion, the UAPA amendment bill mostly goes forward based on the central government's discretion.