By Snobar Khan
Criticizing and asking tough questions to the government are expressions of dissatisfaction with any government policy loudly, that shows we are no longer subjects but citizens of a democratic country.
After Safoora Zargar, Now, Another instance of the usage of the draconian UAPA was seen recently when four days after granted bail, Pinjra tod activist and JNU student, Devangana Kalita has been arrested under UAPA by the Delhi Police.
The government has amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 to silence the critics of government.
This act allows government to tag individuals as terrorists if they commit or participate in the acts of terrorism, prepare for acts of terror, promote terrorism or are otherwise involved in terrorism. Earlier, the government was only empowered to designate organization, and individuals as terrorists.
This act is not limited to terrorist activities. The state is also misusing this law against universities’ students, political opponents and civil society activists who speak against the government policies and branding them as “terrorists”.
I do not think, anything can be more dangerous for democracy, than UAPA act, 2019.
On 4th June, a Jamia Millia Islamia student, an anti-CAA activist and 21 weeks pregnant woman Safoora Zargar was denied bail in Patiala house court presided by additional sessions judge Dharmendre Rana. This was the 4th time rejection of her bail contempt.
Zargar’s counsel argued that she was only holding legitimate and peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in accordance with her constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to speech and expression. Even assuming the prosecution case to be true for argument case.
What was the wrong in counsel’s argument?
Do we have no fundamental right to speech and expression in the constitution?
What says article 19 (1) a?
It says that we have the right to speech and expression. But when we cannot use this right then what is the point of this article in the constitution?
Condition available in CRPC (Criminal Procedure code) for granting bail in a non- bailable offence.
There are some conditions available in CRPC( Criminal Procedure code), on which the court grants a bail in a non- bailable offence. One of them is fulfilling in the Zargar’s case is if the accused is a woman or child, bail can be granted in a non- bailable matter. According to this condition, court should have granted her bail because here, Safoora and her unborn child have the right to get a bail from the court of law.
But the court could not see this condition of granting bail for a pregnant sick woman in the front of prima facie case evidence.
The Courts have humanity to extended the interim bails granted to accused in several non- bailable offences, due to a deadly virus.
But in the case of Safoora, court has failed the humanity in granting a bail her on humanitarian grounds, such as she is 21 week pregnant woman and also sick.
This highlights us that how brutal is this system for those who speaks against government policies.
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019
In 2019, A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Association for Protection of Civil Rights in the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional as it violates our fundamental rights. The NGO, which filed the PIL said it indirectly curtailing the right to dissent and violating the Article 14 (Right to Equality), 19 (Right to Free Speech and Expression) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution. And it is also not provide any opportunity to the individual termed as a terrorist to justify his case before the arrest.
The petition has also challenged the Constitutional validity of Section 35 and Section 36 of the UAPA that paved the way for government to notify an individual as a terrorist.
Delhi Police has filed UAPA against students but no charges yet against BJP leader Kapil Mishra
Earlier, the Jamia student Asif Iqbal, RTI activist and Assam’s Peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, Dr Khafeel Khan and former JNU student Umar Khalid have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 for their role in the protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is considered discriminatory towards Muslims but BJP’s leader Kapil Mishra has not yet been charged for his inflammatory speech through which he vented his anger towards Anti-CAA protestors, especially Muslims.
In case of Safoor Zargar, the court was able to see the whatsapp chats for denying her bail then why no one was able to see the ample video evidence in the public domain of the Bhartiya Janta Party ( BJP) leader Kapil Mishra threatening to take the law into his own hands?
In February, the former High Court judge, Justice S. Murlidhar asked Delhi Police for registering FIRs against Kapil Mishra and Anuragh Thakur for their hate speeches in connection with the Delhi pogrom and after this order, the justice S. Murlidhar has been transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The central government is misusing its power to pursue the communal and authoritarian agenda in our democratic country.
International Organizations of human rights demands for releasing student activists
The Amnesty International has demanded the release of Safoora Zargar and In a tweet, the Human Rights Organization has also blasted the BJP government for ruthlessly arresting a pregnant women and sending her to an overcrowded prison during a deadly virus and demanded her immediate bail.
And now, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah for releasing student activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal
But these demands, letters and tweets of international organizations of human rights are helpless because they fell on deaf ears.
Writer is a final year student of Journalism, Delhi University. Email id: email@example.com