‘Why Are Judges Petrified?’: Lawyers on UAPA Use in NE Delhi Probe

“Has the judiciary forgotten we have a history of putting human rights activists in jail?,” Colin Gonsalves asks.

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“How can a person whose only crime is that he is shouting slogans against the state be put in jail? You need judges to have guts, isn't it? Now if you are going to meekly follow behind the executive, then what can be done? Has the judiciary forgotten that we have a long history of puting human rights activists in jail?,” Founder of Human Rights Law Network and senior advocate at Supreme Court Colin Gonsalves told The Quint in an interview where we discussed the implications of invoking the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

In the Delhi police probe into the NE Delhi riots where at least 50 people died, the UAPA has been invoked - linking anti-CAA protesters to the violence in FIR number 59. The police is arguing that there was a large conspiracy behind the Delhi riots where the Anti-CAA activists had a role to play. They have, as of 5 June, filed six charge sheets in the Delhi riots case.

We spoke to lawyers to understand the consequences of invoking this draconian law and how the Act makes it almost impossible to get bail even where there is minimal evidence against the accused.

In the interview, lawyers Mehmood Pracha, Abhinav Sekhri and Colin Gonsalves they help us understand why UAPA is a problematic law. While Pracha and Colin explained how the law itself makes it impossible to secure bail, Sekhri explained the reason behind it. “The Act casts the burden on the accused to go and show the board that there are reasonable basis to think he is innocent. What that means then, is that till the charge sheet gets filed, technically I am fighting with both hands behind my back because I can not know what the allegations are. So automatically I will wait till the charge sheet gets filed and that automatically means that at least 90 or 180 days are gone. So that is 3 to 6 months,” he said.

Speaking about the only window that one has to secure bail Sekhri says, “You have this little window where you either get bail between the charge sheet being filed and the charge (being framed) because after that, frankly you are stuck.”

When asked about the power the judiciary has in such cases, Pracha said if special judges are stringent in their application from the provisions of NIA (National Investigation Agency) as well as UAPA most of the problems would not arise. “I think most of the problems will not arise in cases where UAPA is being invoked falsely. Like in the present case it is totally a politically motivated case where no evidence of any nature regarding UAPA is there. Yet, UAPA has been invoked. Yet, if there is good special judge then he will throw it out in one second.”

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