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"There is development of something called the soft torture", remarked Justice Madan Lokur, in the context of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition law which make the granting of bail a difficult proposition, even if the accused has serious medical conditions.
At a webinar titled 'Democracy, Dissent and Draconian Laws - Do UAPA And Sedition Have A Place in our Statute Books?', retired Supreme Court Justices Madan Lokur, Aftab Alam, Deepak Gupta and Gopala Gowda discussed the misuse of the UAPA and the sedition law with activist Anjali Bharadwaj.
‘The Process Becomes The Punishment’
Citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in the case of UAPA, Justice Aftab Alam pointed at the charge sheeting rate of 42% while the pendency rate is at 77.8%.
“With low disposal and high pendency rate, it is no surprise that the case might fail. Therefore, the process often becomes the punishment”, said Justice Alam.
‘Interpretation of These Laws Has Been Situational’
Stressing on the need to develop a people-centric model of national security, Justice Gopala Gowda said that reforms are necessary for the special security legislation of India. Currently, the legislation reeks of an "authoritarian impulse", he said. He further raised the issue of repealing the legal provisions that accord impunity to the state.
In recent times, the judicial interpretation of these laws have been erratic and situational. There has been an indiscriminate filing of cases against dissenters which violates human rights.Justice Gopala Gowda
‘Courts Are Reluctant to Grant Bail’
Taking an example of the ongoing farmers’ protest at the border of New Delhi, Justice Deepak Gupta says, “Taking part in farmers’ protest does not amount to sedition. The law is misused to stifle the voices of those who question others in power.”
Justice Gupta also believes that UAPA has resulted in the incarceration of people for years as police add charges under the sedition law and "courts are reluctant to grant bail".
‘Mental Trauma For The Innocent’
Demanding accountability and compensation, Justice Madan Lokur says that there is a lot of mental trauma for the person charged under the sedition law, who might be innocent.
“We are not looking at the mental aspect of it, as friends, families and relatives are frustrated along with the accused”, says Justice Lokur. He further adds that charging under UAPA has led to "development of soft torture".