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Shouldn’t misuse anti-terror law UAPA to “quell dissent”: SC

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi:Supreme Court Judge Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud while addressing an event on the legal ties between India and the United States on Monday said that anti-terror law or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) should not be “misused for quelling dissent”. He was speaking at Indo-US Joint Summer Conference on Indo-US legal ties.

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“Criminal law, including anti-terror legislation, should not be misused for quelling dissent or harassment to citizens. As I noted in my judgement in Arnab Goswami vs the State, our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of liberty of citizens,” Justice Chandrachud said.

“Deprivation of liberty for even a single day is one too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic issues of our decisions,” he added.

The remarks come amid outrage over the death of 84-year-old activist Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the anti-terror law- Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or UAPA – in the Elgar Parishad case last year. He died last week in Mumbai in the middle of his fight for bail on health grounds.

Several other cases where the UAPA was used have made headlines recently. Earlier this month, Assam leader Akhil Gogoi walked out of jail after 1.5 years. He was arrested over violent protests against the contentious citizenship law. Soon after his release, he pledged to fight against the misuse of UAPA.

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In another case, a Kashmiri man, arrested on terror charges, was released a few weeks back – after a legal fight of  11 years – on being found innocent.

During Monday’s event, Justice Chandrachud made several other remarks on Indo-US ties and said the United States is a “torchbearer in promoting liberty, freedom of speech and expression and religious peace”. The event was organised by the American Bar Association’s International Law Section, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators India, and the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF).

“India, being the oldest and largest democracy, represents ideals of multicultural, pluralist society where their constitutions are focused on a deep commitment and respect for human rights,” he underlined.

The top courts in India and the United States have “both been termed as the most powerful courts in terms of their own might,” Justice Chandrachud further said, underscoring that the USA’s “influence on Indian jurisprudence cannot be understated”.

“It has contributed to the heart and soul of the Indian constitution,” he said.

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“One of the most cited anecdotes of American influence has been on the right to protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the constitution, as against its conception in the Bill of Rights, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” he highlighted.

“(For) my judgement on decimalising same-sex relationship between adults, I relied on US Supreme Court decision in Lawrence Vs Texas,” he shared.

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