Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar
| Ludhiana |
Released: Jul 7, 2020 2:37:48 PM
Ludhiana-based lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjhpur has first-hand experience in dealing with cases submitted under the Law on Illegal Activities (Prevention) (UAPA). He was booked under UAPA back in 2009 and had been in prison for almost a year and a half before being given bail. He was acquitted in 2014.
Manjhpur was booked along with former militant Daljit Singh Bittu and five others. So far, he has represented around 70 people who were booked as part of the UAPA before various courts in Punjab. He has also drawn up a preliminary list of 64 cases under UAPA that have been registered in Punjab in the past 11 years.
“There are other cases registered in Punjab under UAPA that I may not know about. According to the list I have created, at least 64 cases have been registered in Punjab under UAPA since 2007. More than 300 men and women have been put behind bars, and 99 percent of them are Sikhs, ”said Manjhpur.
"Of the 235 accused under UAPA on my list, 162 were released or acquitted. In the 64 FIRs, convictions have only occurred in three cases. Two convicts were acquitted from higher courts. A defendant is pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. The rest of the accused are still on trial, ”said the lawyer.
He continued: “Acquittal means that the accused must have spent at least one year behind bars and in most cases up to seven years. Around 175 Sikh youths were arrested under UAPA under Capt Amarinder Singh's regime. In the ten years of the SAD and BJP government, a total of 64 Sikh youths were arrested under the law. "
“Under UAPA, suspects are often not involved in convicting them, but rather in keeping them in prison for a long period of time. If the police claim that a pistol has been recovered by a person and only book it under the Gun Act, the accused can bail after the first hearing. However, if the accused is booked under UAPA, he may have to live behind bars for years, ”said the lawyer.
From the list of 64, there were 40 FIRs in which defendants were booked under UAPA when there was no criminal event.
"In most cases, the police will notify the court that the suspect has planned criminal activities and then use UAPA to ensure that the person does not come out of prison on bail. Majority cases under the UAPA do not occur under criminal law, ”said Manjhpur.
Pal Singh France, who has been booked under UAPA in six different cases and is now acquitted overall, said: “The police told the court that I was waging a war against the state. The judge asked the policeman how many men, weapons, and resources I have to wage war on the state. The policeman was speechless. The next day, the officer made the same request to another judge to refuse me bail under UAPA. "
Ravinder Singh Rinku is another such person who was booked through the UAPA. “I was booked in the case of the Shingar bomb explosion. Police had hunted Sikh youth after the explosion. I stayed behind bars for seven years before I was acquitted in the case in 2014. At the time of the arrest, I was 31 years old and used to ride a tricycle. My wife had to work as a day laborer because I was in prison, ”said Ravinder.
All other main suspects in the blasting case were also cleared of all charges by the court.
The case of Roffal alais Rahul is not on Manjhpur's list. He was booked in Amritsar in 2018 because of his alleged relationship with the US-based Sikh for Justice under turmoil and UAPA before it was banned by India.
According to the FIR, no riot-related crime was committed with the pistol allegedly recovered from Rahul.
Two pistols were recovered from him, one of which he had given to his friend Soni, who later died in Batala with this pistol by suicide. The suicide was unrelated to the ongoing case. The Challan against Rahul has already been filed in court.
“It remains to be investigated why Roffal was part of the nexus. It remains to be determined whether the murder he planned has been linked to the 2020 referendum or not, ”said investigator Palwinder Singh.
"Roffal is in prison for UAPA. Otherwise, he would only have been booked under the Arms Act and should have been brought to justice while on bail, ”said lawyer Kulwinder Kaur, who represented the accused in the case.
“UAPA is now more dangerous than TADA and POTA. UAPA was strengthened much before POTA's withdrawal. There is an urgent need for an open debate in Parliament and in public about how UAPA has been used to harass youth from minority communities, ”said Manjhpur.
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