This article is written by Shubhangi of ILS Law College and curated by Anjeeta Rani of Chanakya National Law University.
“Terrorism is a challenge to humanity.”
We live in a society where humanity is the most cherished quality. If something challenges humanity then it is a matter of concern hence terrorism holds a crucial status for the survival of mankind. Terrorism is one of the most debated topics on the global platform. Terrorism due to its origin, expanse, and ideologies is undoubtedly a very complex issue. It gets further complicated when some states use it as a tool to achieve their political propaganda. With development, the impact and reach of terrorism have also increased to a greater level.
India has been facing and combating terrorism since independence in one way or the other. India can be referred to as the ‘epicenter of global terrorism’. Though the international community woke up to the reality of global terror only after the 9/11 attack, which snatched the ground beneath everyone. Terrorism is a very serious topic because it not only seizes the fundamental rights of citizens but also endangers a country’s political as well as economic stability.
India was awakened towards terrorism a long time back and has promulgated some policies and laws to tackle it. Initially, the acts related to terrorism were dealt with under the provisions of IPC, Indian Arms Act, and the Indian Explosives Act, etc. and for procedural aspects, the Criminal Procedure Code was followed. But over the years with frequent, intense, and geographically widespread acts of terror, the need for specific legislation dealing with terrorism increased. This gave rise to the first two anti-terrorism laws namely ‘Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1985, 1987 (TADA)’ and ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA)’. The TADA Act’s third paragraph gives a very thorough definition of “terrorism”:
“Whoever with intent to overawe the Government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature in such a manner as to cause, or as is likely to cause, death of, or injuries to, any person or persons or loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property or disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community, or detains any person and threatens to kill or injure such person to compel the Government or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act, commits a terrorist act.”
But both of these acts were repealed in the year 1995 and 2004 respectively, because of a lack of political support and national will. After that, for 4 years the country didn’t have any specific legislation regarding the increasing terrorism activities. Some states also enacted few acts to deal with the problem of terrorism like Maharashtra launched the “Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999” known as ‘MCOCA’ to combat this problem of terror. This act provides state government with special powers of surveillance, relaxed evidentiary standards procedural safeguards, and prescribing additional criminal penalties, including the death penalty to convicts in various criminal and terrorist activities. This was followed by other states like Karnataka, Chandigarh, and Gujarat, etc. but was not able to get the central government’s approval because of some political issues.
Another act that got importance was the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). This law came into existence in 1967, when it was passed in Parliament for tackling problems of unlawful activities. Some provisions of this act were even included in POTA which was later repealed in 2004. The major amendment under this act was in 2008, where the definition of terrorism was included in section 15 of this act. Section 2(k) read with section 15 of the UAPA states that “terrorism must involve violence, which causes death, damage of property, disruption of the countries essential supplies, kidnapping or abduction of public functionary to disrupt the unity and sovereignty of India”. A further amendment in UAPA was done in 2013 which incorporated financial as well as economic offenses which helped in the prosecution of offenses that took place outside the country.
Another important development in this field was the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 (NIA) by the government of India. The NIA Act established the National Investigation Agency which exercised special powers to deal with offenses that challenged the sovereignty of the state. The jurisdiction of NIA extends over offenses enlisted under the UAPA, SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act of 1993, etc. The NIA could operate on only those cases where they were fully convinced that the act reported by the state police was according to the scheduled list. Along with this, special courts were established under the amendment in UAPA where only these kinds of offenses were handled. The provision for Special Courts was also incorporated in the NIA Act of 2008. Under the provisions of the NIA Act, 37 Special Courts were established (30 in different states and 7 in Union Territories).
The acts of terror are horrific crimes which require special provisions to deal with them. The consequences of terrorism are horrendous. The transnational nature of terrorism and its rapid utilization of technology makes it a global threat. Hence it is high time for India to take important steps in the field of legislation for terrorism. Over decades we have given more importance to politics-related topics rather than terrorism and have always engaged in politics behind it. But now we have to get our acts together and start taking things seriously. Terrorism is a deep-rooted virus in our society that could vanish only by the vaccine in the form of stricter provisions and legislations and efforts of society as a whole.