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CONTROVERSIAL DECISION AFTER YEARS                                              

Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena has sanctioned the prosecution of author Arundhati Roy under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for a speech made in 2010. The sanction follows a complaint lodged by social activist Sushil Pandit, who accused Roy and former professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain of delivering speeches that incited hostility between various groups and posed a threat to national unity.

This move has reignited discussions on freedom of speech and the use of UAPA in India.

THE SPEECH THAT SPARKED DEBATE                                                      

The speech in question was delivered at a conference organized by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners under the banner of “Azadi – The Only Way” on October 21, 2010 at the Little Theatre Group (LTG) Auditorium on Copernicus Marg in New Delhi. 

Allegedly, Roy in her speech propagated that Kashmir was never a part of India and was forcibly occupied by the Armed Forces of India.

Following it an FIR was registered on November 27, 2010, at Tilak Marg Police Station, following orders from the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, New Delhi.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS SET IN MOTION                                                    

  • Earlier, the Delhi Police requested authorization for prosecution under IPC Sections 153A, 153B, 504, 505, and UAPA Section 13 against Roy and Hussain.
  • However, in October 2023, the Lt Governor granted sanction only for the IPC sections i.e., Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 153A, 153B, and 505 under Section 196 CrPC.
  • The LG's recent sanction allows for prosecution under Section 45(1) of the UAPA, which deals with punishment for offences under the Act.

LAWS IN QUESTION 

  • Section 153A of IPC pertains to activities that foster animosity between different groups based on factors like religion, race, place of birth, residence, or language, encompassing actions that disrupt social cohesion. 
  • Section 153B of IPC addresses making statements or claims that undermine national unity and integration. 
  • Section 505 of IPC deals with deliberate insults aimed at inciting public disorder.
  • Section 13 of the UAPA deals with punishment for unlawful activities for advocating, abetting or inciting any unlawful activity and is punishable with imprisonment up to seven years.

THE INTRICACIES OF UAPA PROSECUTION                                               

The UAPA Act, is India’s primary counter-terrorism legislation. It grants the government powers to deal with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. The decision to prosecute an individual under UAPA is a complex legal process that involves multiple layers of scrutiny and sanction.

Seeking Sanction: A Prerequisite for Prosecution

Before prosecuting an individual under UAPA, the Section 45(1) requires a sanction from the government authority. The authority must carefully examine the evidence to ensure that there is sufficient ground for proceeding with a prosecution.

The Role of the Lieutenant Governor

In the case of Delhi, the LG holds a pivotal position in sanctioning prosecutions under UAPA and his decision is often guided by inputs from various agencies and must align with the principles of justice and fairness.

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