The debate between security and fundamental rights started in colonial times and continues till this day.
This debate has taken the central stage with the recent issue of official secrets Act and Unlawful Activities amendment Act, 2019.
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Following amendments are used:
- Centre government can designate individuals as terrorists without a trial and conviction.
- Augmentation in power of National Investigation Agency empowers officers of inspector rank to investigate earlier Deputy Superintendent and above
- Added International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear terrorism in the list of treaties covered by this act.
- Possible benefits of the amendment
Better increased powers of investigation agencies to fight terrorisms.
Ensuring better public safety.
The recent amendments have forced heavy criticism from civil society on the following grounds:
- It violates the fundamental rights of the individual by not following due process of law and designating the individual as terrorists without a fair trial in court, affecting article 14.
- It can be used in an arbitrary manner to suppress dissent, as it does not make any clear distinction, affecting article 19.
- Such designation without conviction will also affect Article 20, 21 and 22.
- Even if the person is later released, it will be similar to a case ‘civil death’ because of social boycott, loss of job and other vigilantes groups.
- Chances of the state becoming authoritarian flowing discussed various aspects of the act, it is a clear chance of arbitrary use, therefore certain safeguards should be adopted:
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- Follow proper trial and conviction before the designation of a terrorist.
- The individual should have certain safeguards available against unidirectional power of Centre.
- The clear distinction between dissent and terrorism should be made.
Thus such policies should be made in line with recent Supreme Court’s comment about balancing “National Security and Fundamental rights”, the state should explore all possibilities to safeguard individual rights and maintain them for a substantial democracy. It is correct when Laski says “A state is known by the rights that it maintains.”