‘Terrorist Act’ can’t be applied in a cavalier manner: Delhi High Court

‘Terrorist Act’ can’t be applied in a cavalier manner: Delhi High Court


Granting bail to three student activists in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday held that the definition of “terrorist act” under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is “somewhat vague”.

The bench said the anti-terror law cannot be applied in a “cavalier manner” to criminal acts falling under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), lest it unjustly sucks persons into its ambit.

The bench, comprising Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambani, observed that for the state, the “line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred”.


This was observed while granting bail to three student activists Natasha Narwal, Devanagana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha booked in the Delhi riots conspiracy case last February filed under UAPA.

The bench said it was of the opinion that the intent and purpose of Parliament in enacting the UAPA and in amending it in 2004 and 2008 to bring terrorist activity within its scope, “was, and could only have been, to deal with matters of profound impact on the ‘Defence of India’, nothing more and nothing less”.

The high court said “foisting extremely grave and serious penal provisions”, engrafted under the UAPA, “frivolously” upon people would undermine the intent and purpose of the Parliament in enacting a law that is meant to address threats to the very existence of our nation.

The order said: “As this court held in Asif Iqbal Tanha (verdict), therefore, in our view, although the definition of ‘terrorist act’ in Section 15 UAPA is wide and even somewhat vague, the definition must partake of the essential character of terrorism and the phrase ‘terrorist act’ cannot be permitted to be applied in a cavalier manner to criminal acts or omissions that fall squarely within the definition of conventional offences as defined

alia under the IPC.”

The bench said: “Our jurisprudence, therefore, dictates that where a provision of law which contains serious penal consequences is vague or widely worded, such provision must be construed narrowly to bring it within the constitutional framework; and most importantly, must be applied in a just and fair way, lest it unjustly sucks within its ambit persons whom the legislature never intended to punish.”

“Where the court finds that an act or omission is adequately addressed and dealt with by the ordinary penal law of the land, the court must not countenance a state agency ‘crying wolf’.”


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