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Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar to be first ‘individual’ terrorists under UAPA’s new provisions

When amendments to UAPA is passed by Rajya Sabha, “extremists” & “insurgents” can also be tagged terrorists if govt has “sufficient proof”.

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New Delhi: Mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks Hafiz Saeed and Pulwama attack mastermind Masood Azhar will be the first to be designated terrorists by India, once the amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha, ThePrint has learnt.

The amendment in the UAPA Act — India’s anti-terror law — seeks to introduce a provision to designate individuals who either commit or participate in acts of terrorism, or prepare for terrorism, or promote or encourages terrorism.

The amendment will add “individuals” in Sections 35-38, alongside organisation, as designated terrorists.

“It is practice that is followed across the world. The US, Europe, China, Israel, Pakistan and even Sri Lanka now have this provision of designating terrorists. Once India too has it, it will empower us to fight terrorism more effectively,” an MHA official said.

The official said that designating an individual as a terrorist is a required move as it will directly target the individual who is spreading the idea of terrorism.

“Banning an organisation does not solve the purpose. Once we ban them, they re-emerge and reconstitute under a different name. The same individual reconstitutes a different organisation and carries on with his nefarious ideas. The aim is to target that individual, so designating them will be far more effective in countering terror,” the official said.

Although there is no clarity on the action that will be taken against individuals designated as terrorists, the official said it will be in line with the conventions of the UN. He, however, said that will be decided once the bill is passed by Parliament, gets the President’s approval and rules to the Act are framed.

“The aim is to brand the kingpins of these terror outfits. Their details will then be shared with all agencies and state police, so that if they happen to travel anywhere or are caught for even a minor offence somewhere, the investigators know that he is a designated terrorist. It minimises the chance of them slipping,” the official said.

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Extremists too can be designated

Amid the uproar in the Lok Sabha, with the opposition claiming that the amendment will be misused by the government to target social activists, the home ministry said individuals not only involved in cross-border terrorism but also within India — including insurgents and extremists — could be designated.

“If the government has sufficient proof about those individuals being involved in acts of terror that go against the country, then extremists or insurgents too can be designated as terrorists,” the official said.

Home Minister Amit Shah too had made a statement in the Lok Sabha saying that “police were not interested in nabbing social workers, but those who work to foster Urban Naxalism”. This was after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule had raised the point about the law “unfairly targeting social activists”.

Shah had stated that the government does not have “sympathies and we will not tolerate it”.

“They need to be stopped, they misguide the poor and let them pick up arms against the state,” Shah had said.

Terrorist tag and review

The home ministry official said that an individual will be designated a terrorist only after the government has “sufficient proof against the individual”.

“All security agencies will be involved and the facts and evidence will be corroborated with multiple channels before a suggestion to designate an individual as terrorist goes to the MHA,” the official said. “Once the MHA approves, only then, the individual will be designated.”

If an individual wants to challenge the government’s actions, the procedure for a review will have to be followed.

“The individual can give a representation to the MHA. The concerned officials will then be given a period of 45 days to review it. If it is rejected, then the individual can re-appeal within 30 days and then an independent review committee will be constituted to look into the appeal,” he added.

The official said the independent committee comprises of a secretary-level official and two others — either sitting or retired high court judges.

“The committee then reviews the appeal and gives its decision. If it again rejects the individual’s claims, then he or she can go for another appeal to the court,” he added.

“The onus to prove to the committee that the person who has been designated as terrorist has actually been involved in terror-related activities is entirely on the government,” he said.

The procedure of appeal is the same for an organisation.

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42 listed, only one contested terror tag

In the last 15 years, since the UAPA Act came into existence, only one organisation out of 42 with a terror designation has challenged the tag.

“Dindar Anjuman, a group from Hyderabad, that has been involved in several church bombings in south India had challenged the inclusion of its name in the list of terror organization,” the ministry official said. But once the plea was rejected by the independent committee, it did not move court, the official added.

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