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Author: Zuba Parvez Bubere

Symbiosis Law School, Pune


The abbreviation “UAPA” stands for Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The Act came into force in the year 1967. The principal objective of the Act remains to provide for an effective mechanism to prevent unlawful activities, inclusive of terrorist activities, of individuals and associations of persons. A person proved to have acted in contravention of any of the provisions of the said Act shall face penal liability under the provisions of the Act[1]. The “Preliminary” portion of the Act specifically mentions that the provisions of the Act shall also take into account any unlawful activity committed by an Indian outside the territory of the nation in the same manner as if it were committed within the limits of the country, persons serving under the Government (irrespective of location) and persons on ships and aircrafts registered in India (irrespective of their location).

In order to understand the provisions of the Act, it is essential to take a note of the meaning of the terms “unlawful activity”, which may be reiterated as follows:

Section 2(o) of the Act defines “unlawful activity” in relation to an individual or association, means any action taken by such individual or association (whether by committing an act or by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise),—

(i) which is intended, or supports any claim, to bring about, on any ground whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession; or

(ii) which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; or

(iii) which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India.

The Act provides for the constitution of a tribunal known as the “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal” by the Central Government, consisting of one person, so appointed by the Central Government. The said Tribunal enjoys the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908for trying a suit. Further, any proceeding initiated/undertaken by the Tribunal shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


The Central Government may pass a notification declaring an association of persons as “unlawful”. After such a notification is passed, it shall within 30 days from the date of passing of the said notification, refer the matter to the Tribunal for adjudicating upon the same. Thereafter, a show-cause notice shall be served upon the members of the unlawful association to show cause as to why it should not be declared as “unlawful”. An enquiry shall be initiated in the manner as prescribed under Section 9 of the Act. In due consideration of the response to the show-cause notice and other relevant information collected, the Tribunal shall decide within a period of 6 months, the title of such an association. An order is passed under Section 4 of the Act by the Tribunal.

Pursuant to such an order passed by a Tribunal under the Act, declaring an association as unlawful, the Central Government shall notify the same by way of a gazette notification passed to that effect. Such a notification shall remain effective for a period of 5 years from the date it is so confirmed by the Tribunal. Such a notification shall also be passed in not less than one newspaper in circulation in the State in which the principal office, if any, of such an unlawful association is situated and be served on the members of the said unlawful association in the manner and mode as the Central Government shall deem fit. The Act also empowers the Central Government to cancel any notification passed under the Act as and when it deems just and proper to do so.

When an association is declared unlawful and the Central Government has an opinion to believe that any person has custody of any moneys, securities or credits which are being used or are intended to be used for the purpose of the unlawful association, a prohibitory order may be passed in writing, prohibiting such person from paying, delivering, transferring or otherwise dealing in any manner. Any person aggrieved by such an order shall, within 15 days, apply to the court of a District Judge empowered to hear and decide the same[2]. In matters concerning proceeds of terrorist activities, the Court may initiate a thorough investigation and pass an order declaring forfeiture of the proceeds. A provision to file an appeal is laid down under Section 26 of the Act. An aggrieved person may, within one month from the date of the receipt of such order, prefer the same to the High Court within whose jurisdiction, such a subordinate court is situated.


Any person who is found to have violated any of the provisions of the Act or is proved to have acted in contravention of the order passed by the Tribunal/Court shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term as pronounced under the Act and shall also be liable to fine[3].

With respect to a terrorist Act, if such an act results in death of any person, the terrorist shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine. However, in any other case, the punishment would comprise of an imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and extendable to imprisonment for life, in addition to imposition of fine.

As regards offences committed by a company, any person who, at the time of the commission of the unlawful act, held any prominent position so as to be responsible for acts on behalf of the company shall be tried and punished accordingly whereas in cases of offences committed by a society or trust, any person, who, at the time of the commission of the unlawful act, held any prominent position so as to be responsible for acts on behalf of the society/trust shall be tried and punished accordingly[4]. In both these cases, the defaulter shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable with fine which shall not be less than five crores of rupees and which may extend to ten crores of rupees.


THE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) ACT, 1967, https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1967-37.pdf

[1] Sections 16-23 of The UAPA, 1967 [2] Section 7(4) of The UAPA, 1967 [3] Sections 10-13 of The UAPA, 1967 [4] Sections 22A, 22B and 22C of The UAPA, 1967

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