New Delhi: The Supreme Court has been moved challenging the constitutional validity of the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 that empowers the government to declare any person as “terrorist” and attach his properties.

A Delhi based PIL petitioner has contended that the amended provision under which a person could be declared as terrorist without being given an opportunity to defend himself, violated the fundamental right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, including life and liberty.

Seeking declaration that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 was unconstitutional on the grounds of its being violative of Article 14 (equality before law), Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (Right to life and liberty) of the constitution, PIL petitioner Sajal Awasthi has contended that the draconian provisions seeks to condemn a person as a “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind on the material against the person being branded as terrorist.

Describing the amended provision as an assault on the right to reputation of a person, PIL petitioner Mr Awasthi has said that vesting of such a “discretionary unfettered and unbound powers upon the Central government is antithesis of the Articles of the Constitution.”

The petition has contended that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 (UAPA, 2019) seeks to substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activi-ties (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA, 1967) by way of Section 35 empowering the Central government to categorise any individual as “terrorist” and add name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act for the purpose of attaching his/her properties even without being held guilty by any court of law.

Further, the PIL petitioner has said that the “Right to Reputation is an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and terming/tagging an individual as ‘terrorist’, even before commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it” amount to damning a person without following the due ‘procedure established by law’ and thus, was violative of right to reputation of such an individual.

Asserting that the right to dissent is a part and parcel of the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the PIL petitioner has contended that the right to free speech and expression could not be curtailed or abridged in any manner or circumstances except for those mentioned in Article 19(2) of the constitution.

The amended statute, in the name of curbing terrorism, the PIL says, vests in the government powers to impose indirect restrictions on the right to dissent.

Such curbs on the dissent, the PIL says is detrimental to our developing democratic society.

India is a democracy and every citizen has a right to dissent, but the presence of a “draconian” provision in the amended UAPA 2019, directly encroaches upon the same, says the PIL.

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Pointing to the chilling provision, the petitioner says that the amended provision does not afford an opportunity to an individual, being categorised as terrorist topresent his/her case and leaves such individuals to live on the “whims and caprice” of the society, thereafter.