India yet to amend Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to designate individuals as terrorists

NEW DELHI: While the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has just designated Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, India can’t do the same for individuals, only organisations. A proposed amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) that would allow persons to be named as terrorists has been pending with the cabinet secretariat since last year and may only be taken up by the next government, ET has learnt.

Unlike India, the US State and Treasury Departments can designate individuals as terrorists, imposing travel bans on them and freezing their assets. Similarly, the European Union can list persons, groups and entities engaged in terrorism to ensure that restrictive measures are put in place against them.

It may be recalled that the US designated Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and Islamic State (IS) recruiter from Bhatkal in Karnataka, Shafi Armar, as global terrorists last year. While Salahuddin, chief of the largest militant outfit in Jammu & Kashmir and chairman of the United Jihad Council, was responsible for recruitment in the Valley, Armar was instrumental in online indoctrination and luring Indian youths to join IS.

Officials said the proposal to amend UAPA was mooted by the Union home ministry in 2016.


Will Help Clamp Down on Terror

The decision, sources said, was taken after youths from different parts of India started migrating to Syria and Iraq to join IS. As many as 85 persons across India have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for their alleged links to IS but not all have been directly affiliated to the organisation, officials told ET. 

“The Bill, Unlawful Activities Prevention Bill, 2019, once cleared by Parliament, will help the government ban terror chieftains like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim,” a senior home ministry official said. While Saeed is accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, JeM chief Azhar has been held responsible for the Pulwama and Pathankot attacks. Both JeM and LeT figure in the list of banned entities under UAPA. Underworld don Ibrahim allegedly masterminded the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai. India has said that all three are living in Pakistan. The amendments will allow the government to ban individuals involved in terrorism but not associated with any organisation. India has banned 41terrorist organisations under Section 35 of UAPA. Islamic State in Khorasan Province/ISIS Wilayat Khorasan and Al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent were the latest to be added to the list of banned outfits for their alleged involvement in luring Indian nationals to take up global jihad.

A home ministry spokesperson said the UN’s naming of Azhar will tighten the screws on him. “It will not stop (terrorism) but it will definitely put pressure on Azhar who has been roaming freely and collecting donations to fuel trouble in Jammu & Kashmir,” he said. “Secondly, at the international level, there has been (unprecedented) solidarity. Earlier, it was one country (China) versus the committee (UNSC). This time, the big three (US, France and Russia) came together and sided with India. If China had not come in the way, Azhar would have been designated long back in a routine manner by the UNSC.”

Among those designated by the US as global terrorists are Dawood Ibrahim, his brother Anis Ibrahim and close associates Chhota Shakeel and Aziz Moosa. The list also includes Asim Umar, the chief of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, who hails from Sambhal in UP.