Here is a working list of relevant Indian laws to keep in mind when trying to understand the legal framing of political prisoners in India.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as “disturbed”, an officer of the armed forces has powers to:
- “Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons.
- To arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so
- To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.
It gives Army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law.
The CSPSA provides provisions that authorizes the police to detain a person for committing acts, which among other things, show a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law”. The act also states any person whose actions “encourage(s) the disobedience of the established law” will be considered “unlawful”.
Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards. 2[* * *] the Government established by law in [India] shall be punished with 5[imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
In a landmark ruling in 1962, Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, the Supreme Court ruled that unless the accused incited violence by their speech or action, it would no longer constitute sedition, as it would otherwise violate the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution.
Pursuant to the acceptance by Government of a unanimous recommendation of the Committee on National Integration and Regionalism appointed by the National Integration Council, the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, was enacted empowering Parliament to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, on the:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression;
- Right to Assemble peaceably and without arms; and
- Right to Form Associations or Unions.
The object of this Bill was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. The Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and received the assent of the President on 30th December 1967. The Amending Acts are as follows:
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1969;
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1972;
- The Delegated Legislation Provisions (Amendment) Act, 1986;
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004,
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008
[Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer]