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Bail After UAPA: Why ‘Semi-Justice’ by Courts is Justice Denied

Sedition laws like the UAPA prolong the legal battle and result in slander, mental torture, and media trials. 

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3 min read

Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

Are you an activist wanting to protest? Be ready for UAPA.

Are you a journalist asking questions to the government? Be ready for sedition.

Are you a doctor complaining about the healthcare infrastructure? Be ready for NSA.

A trend is catching up in India where charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and National Security Act are imposed, followed by torture, jail term, and consecutive court hearings. After the prolonged legal battle, all you get is semi-justice in the form of bail or acquittal, which can even stretch up to nine years!

The entangled legal process ends up being a punishment in itself, forcing us to ask, Janab Aese Kaise?

Charged under the UAPA law, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha were granted bail on 15 June 2021. Hearing their case on 5 June 2021, the Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani categorically noted that the state failed to produce evidence to show that the three accused prima facie committed a terror offense as contemplated in Sections 15, 17, or 18 of the UAPA.

While Delhi Police moved the Supreme Court against the high court order, the bail order of the three UAPA accused was upheld. The apex court has however said, that the high court order cannot be treated as a precedent in any other proceeding.

But at the moment we are asking why the court does not set any precedent by taking action against the police department that repeatedly implicates people who disagree with the government, with laws like the UAPA, National Security Act, and sedition charges.

‘DOES RIGHT TO PROTEST AMOUNT TO TERRORISM?’

Student activist Asif Iqbal Tanha was released on bail from Tihar Jail on Thursday, 17 June 2021. Speaking exclusively with The Quint, Tanha said that the court’s judgment is the answer to Delhi Police's Special Cell investigations.

Is protesting an act of terrorism? Our acts were not harming the nation, they were harming the ego of the government. The government is scared of our intention to question them.
Asif Iqbal Tanha

‘JUSTICE DELAYED OR JUSTICE DENIED?’

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In Maharashtra’s Nanded city, the anti-terror squad had arrested Mohammed Irfan and Mohammed Ilyas in 2012. The duo was charged under the UAPA law.

Mohd Ilyas faced financial hardships and had to shut his business while fighting the legal battle. At the same time, he even went through public slander and mental trauma. Nine years after their arrest, a special court acquitted the two for ‘lack of evidence’.

Is this justice delayed or justice denied? Is this even justice?

DOES CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT AMOUNT TO SEDITION?

Recently, Lakshadweep witnessed demonstrations against its newly appointed BJP administrator, Praful Patel, against a slew of “anti-people” and “authoritarian” policies, including the change in COVID policy, a beef-ban proposal and lifting the alcohol ban.

Based on a complaint raised by BJP’s Lakshadweep President, C Abdul Khader Haji, a case was filed against film activist Aisha Sultana, who allegedly called Praful Patel ‘centre’s bioweapon’.

Sultana was eventually charged with sedition. But, does criticism of the government amount to sedition?

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A similar case was brought to the Supreme Court by Himachal Pradesh police who had charged journalist Vinod Dua for his criticism of the central government. Dua had criticised the centre for the way it had implemented the COVID lockdown. Quashing the case against Dua, the apex court observed:

“Measures or comments on government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.”

In a similar fashion, Dr Kafeel Khan was charged under the National Security Act in December 2019. Dr Khan had complained about the existing health infrastructure in the face of infant deaths in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur. Eventually, the Allahabad High Court observed Khan’s arrest as ‘illegal’.

SEMI-JUSTICE OR JUSTICE DENIED?

Sedition laws like the UAPA, NSA prolong the legal battle, resulting in extended jail terms, slander, pain, mental torture, and media trials. However, the police and investigative agencies are allowed to let go with a reprimand.

Why aren’t the police charged for lack of evidence?

Does the semi-justice result in justice denied?
For the answers, we will continue to ask, Janab Aese Kaise?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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