After over 2 years in jail, Journalist Siddique Kappan walked out on bail on Thursday morning, “I have full faith in the judicial process, the truth will come out, I am innocent to the core, feeling very happy after being released after 28 months in prison,” the journalist said.[1]

What had he done to be charged under the draconian UAPA law? He was on his way to Hathras to report the alleged gang rape and death of a 20-year-old Dalit woman, which had garnered nationwide unrest, what happened next? Kappan was accused of trying to instigate violence over the death of the Hathras woman in a move to divert the attention of viewers away from the gruesome incident.[2]

The arrest of Siddique is just one among the many purported arrests under UAPA, it is worth remembering the alleged arrest of father stan Swamy, where he was accused of instigating violence near the Bhima Koregaon village in Pune in 2018.[3]

In this article, we will dwell on the aspect of the UAPA (Unlawful activities prevention act) and how it has become a negative for journalism in India.


Before we dwell into the aspect of UAPA, we must understand what exactly constitutes an unlawful activity in India, according to UAPA 1967.

“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, or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; or 

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

If the central government is of the view that an association has become unlawful, it may declare it to be unlawful by notifying the same in the official gazette. [4]


UAPA was implemented as a bulwark against any threat to the territorial integrity of India, but in recent times it has been politically and malevolently misused as a tool against journalists and propagators of democracy to clamp down on freedom of speech and expression (art 19). [5]

Under the constitutional system, the state is the democratically chosen executive to serve the people, which exercises its power through the police[6], and the police are expected to carry out their functions transparent and unbiasedly. It must not limit its service by becoming puppets to the ruling party or misusing the law for self-benefit. However, the common experience has been that of the state using the law to muzzle critics of the government and those who question its actions with the police acting as a springboard for the same.


The blatant misuse of UAPA is clear from its egregiously low conviction rate. According to the data shared by the Union Government, in the period 2016 to 2020, 5,027 cases were registered under the act with 24,134 people accused in those cases. Only 212 of 24,134 people were convicted and 386 were acquitted. This means, in the years 2016-2020, 97.5% of the people arrested under UAPA remain in prison waiting for trial. [7]

This is an extremely low success rate, which needs correction and further analysis. The vague definition of the terrorist act is also to blame for its misuse and acquittal in a majority of cases. The failure to include any provision to hold the police officers in charge legally accountable for misusing and manipulating the law is another major flaw of the act, truncating the rights and liberties of ordinary citizens and activists. [8]

The recent amendment of the act in 2019 further exacerbates the boundaries of the act, giving the central government the power to declare an individual as a terrorist without following any former judicial process. The amendment does not afford an opportunity for the accused to present his/her case if categorised as a ‘terrorist’[9]. The right to dissent is as much a fundamental right as the right to free speech, which forms the fulcrum around which the right to privacy and dissent are enshrined in the Indian constitution, any law that takes away this right or makes it arbitrary at the hands of few influential individuals is an abridgement of free speech. The freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation of ideas as established in Romesh Thappar v state of madras[10]


India is a democracy and the heart of it lies in the freedom of its people to express themselves, UAPA continues to pose a threat to Indian journalism as it has given the state a free hand to use it as a political tool to curb freedom of speech and expression. The idea of dialogue is a must for policies to thrive and constructive criticism is the need of the hour for the law to cater to the needs of the people collectively. The purpose for which UAPA was implemented has barely served its purpose, instead, it has been misused to favour a few individuals and political parties so that their image in the eyes of the public is preserved. The problem with the act is that a mere allegation that an individual belongs to a banned or illicit organisation is enough to detain and arrest the person, without conclusive evidence at times. There have been numerous cases where the person gets acquitted, but they end up being in prison for several years because the provisions of the act simply make it impossible for them to seek bail or legal remedy. Why should anyone have to wait behind the bars for years to seek trial, when all they did was what a prudent journalist would do? UAPA poses a severe threat to the freedom of journalists to report controversial and significant issues hindering India, what we need is a more protective and friendly approach to encourage discussion, so that those who depend on it for their livelihood do not have to face the gamble UAPA induces.

Author(s) Name: Anirudha Rath (Himachal Pradesh National Law University)


[1] Mayank Kumar,’ UAPA a political tool, truth will come out, says kappan’(The Hindu) (Feb 3, 2023)08

[2] Mayank Kumar,(n 1)

[3] Scroll staff, ’Humanity is bubbling in Taloja prison,’ Stan Swamy says in letter to friends.’(Scroll. Nov 14, 2020)<https://scroll.in/latest/978518/humanity-is-bubbling-in-taloja-prison-stan-swamy-says-in-letter-to-friends> accessed 8th Feb 2023

[4] UAPA Act,1967< https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1967-37.pdf> accessed on 8th feb 2023

[5] Constitution of India,1950, art 19

[6]  People’s union for civil liberties, ‘UAPA: Criminalising Dissent and State Terror’(PUCL No. 15 2022)11 < https://www.pucl.org/sites/default/files/reports/PUCL%20-%20%23RepealUAPA%20Campaign%20-%20Main%20Study%20Report%20-%2028.09.2022.pdf> accessed Feb 7th, 2023

[7]The Wire Staff,’ UAPA Case Data Suggests That Process Is Indeed The Punishment’ (The Wire, 20th July 2022) <https://thewire.in/government/uapa-case-data-process-punishment-home-ministry-rajya-sabha> accessed 8th feb 2023)

[8] People’s union for civil liberties(n 6)

[9] Manu Sebastian,’ UAPA Amendment: Why Giving Govt Power To Declare Individuals ‘Terrorists’ Is Problematic?’ (LiveLaw, 28 July 2019) <https://www.livelaw.in/columns/uapa-amendment-individuals-terrorists-lok-sabha-problematic-146742>accessed 8th Feb 2023

[10] Romesh Thappar vs The State of Madras, (1950), AIR 124, SCR 594

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