Member of banned outfit sufficient to book under UAPA: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday said that being a member of a banned outfit makes a person criminal and liable to be prosecuted under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The apex court reversed a 2011 verdict that said mere membership of a banned outfit will not make a person criminal.

The 2011 verdict by the two-judge bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra has been repeatedly used by human rights groups to flag several controversial arrests.

While allowing petitions of the Union government and the Assam government seeking review of the 2011 verdict, the court said the Union government was required to be heard when a provision enacted by Parliament is read down.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, argued that official membership of banned organisations was anyways difficult to prove.

SG also thanked the bench for the “historical judgement”.

A bench comprising Justices MR Shah, CT Ravikumar and Sanjay Karol held that the “UAPA is to punish the person a member of an unlawful organisation in furtherance of the provisions of the UAPA…Thus Section 10(a)(i) is absolutely in consonance with Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(2) of the Constitution and thus in consonance with the objectives of the UAPA.”

The Union government and some state governments contended that the said proviso was effectively read down by relying on the American Bill of Rights, thus hampering the tackling of terrorism since UAPA cases were also being affected by the top court’s interpretation, Bar and Bench reported.