The Delhi High Court on Tuesday while granting bail to three Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students made some sharp observations about the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and its interpretation by the government.
Last year, Devangana Kalia, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha had been arrested last year for protesting against the Delhi riots last year that erupted in the aftermath of the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The trio was specifically charged with orchestrating the blocking of roads in the area.
Observations Made By High Court
The court also remarked that the definition of terrorist act in UAPA is vague, and cannot be permitted to be casually applied to criminal acts that fall squarely within the definition of controversial offenses.
"We are constrained to say, that it appears, that in its anxiety to suppress dissent and in the morbid fear that matters may get out of hand, the State has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed 'right to protest' and 'terrorist activity'," a Bench constituting Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said.
It also noted that the phrase "terrorist act" cannot be permitted to be applied in a cavalier manner to omissions that fall squarely within the definition of conventional offences as defined inter alia under the IPC [Indian Penal Code]. The bench also said that the right to protest is not outlawed and cannot be termed as a "terrorist act".
The court's reading of what constitutes terror activity led to the observation that the state did not make a prima facie case under UAPA against the three accused. Meanwhile, the Delhi Police on Wednesday, June 16, approached the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court granting bail to the three students.