Can restriction of civil liberties for the sake of public safety be justified or is this approach unacceptable?
In the present era, there is a race between the superpowers of the world to become superior. In this race, the rivalry is the most expected result. There are many independent agencies that are listed on the terrorist lists. These institutions are aided by various countries to attack their enemy. For example, it is mostly discussed that ISI is financed by Pakistan to do attacks on India. There are various countries that openly attack another country to invade. Like the recent invasion of Russia directly in Ukraine. This invasion has badly affected the human rights of the citizens as well as foreigners who were doing their studies or work in Ukraine. Some countries indirectly invade in the form of warnings. The best example of this is a recent military exercise of China near Taiwan after the tour of the USA’s top official in Taiwan. All these wars and terror attacks affect the individuals and their various rights like the right to life, right to education, etc.
In this article, we will see if the restriction of civil liberties for the sake of public safety is justified or if this approach is unacceptable.
Meaning of Human Rights
According to United Nations, Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights without discrimination.
Meaning of Terrorism
There is a conflict between the countries regarding the definition of terrorism because “One’s man terrorist can be one’s man freedom fighter”.
The International Convention for Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism defines terrorism in its article 2.1.b as “any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict when the purpose of such action is to intimidate a population or to compel a government or international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”
Human rights under anti-terrorism laws
Terrorism pushes the world into an environment of humiliation, terror, political oppression, poverty, and abuse of human rights. UN bodies and NGOs have listed various human rights cases of abuse carried out under the pretext of combating terrorism like torture, inhuman treatment arbitrary detention, breaches of privacy rights, etc.
The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington brings the attention of the world to the dangerous impact of terrorism and made the fight against terrorism a top political priority for the international community. On 28 September 2001, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1373 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, calling upon states to implement more effective counter-terrorism measures at the national level and to increase international co-operation in the struggle against terrorism.
Anti-terrorism Laws in India
Terrorism has increased in India to a great extent over the last two decades. Many events had occurred in cities like Jaipur, Mumbai, etc. The main example of a terror attack is the attack of 26/11 in Mumbai. After this attack, India took various steps to control terrorism.
Unlawful Activities (Preventive) Act, 1967:
The UAPA came into force on 30th December 1967 with the Sixteenth Amendment, to deal with the actions of the organizations which question the territorial integrity of the country. The Act gives special procedures to handle terrorist activities, among other things. It aims at the effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India. Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Preventive) Act, 1987 [TADA]:
TADA stands for Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, an Indian anti-terrorist law (1985 and 1995, modified in 1987) to prevent terrorist and disruptive activities. This law came into force under the insurgency of Punjab and was applicable to the entire country of India and was enacted by the Indian Parliament. On 23 May 1985, it was commenced by the President of India and began to apply on 24 May 1985.
The Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 [MCOCA]:
The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 is a law enacted by the state of Maharashtra in India in 1999 to combat organized crime and terrorism, also known as ‘MCOCA‘, the Act provides the State Government with special powers to tackle these issues, including powers of surveillance, relaxed evidentiary standards, and procedural safeguards, and prescribing additional criminal penalties, including the death penalty.
Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002:
The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) was an Act passed by the Parliament of India in 2002, to strengthen anti-terrorism operations. The Act was enacted due to several terrorist attacks that were being carried out in India and especially in response to the attack on the Parliament. The Act replaced the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) of 2001 and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Preventive) Act, of 1987 (TADA) (1985–1995).
Case Laws dealing with Terrorism and Human Rights in India
The Apex Court of India observed in the case of Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab that the country has been badly affected by the terrorist activities and was in the firm grip of violence.
In Hitender Vishnu Thakur v. the State of Maharashtra, the court held that ‘terrorism’ is one of the indicators of a rise in lawlessness and violence. Both violence and crime are a menace to an established order and are opposed to a civilized society. But it is the intended and organized use of coercive intimidation that differentiates ‘terrorism’ from other forms of violence. The court further held that every ‘terrorist’ may be considered a criminal but not every criminal can be tagged as a ‘terrorist’.
CAN RESTRICTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE SAKE OF PUBLIC SAFETY BE JUSTIFIED OR IS THIS APPROACH UNACCEPTABLE?
National security is a concept that has an important place in every country. India is not behind anyone. National Security means protecting the citizens and their rights from external or internal disturbances and providing them with a safe and secure life.
Restrictions on Human Rights: For the sake of the safety of the people, government forms some rules and regulations that should be followed to protect the life of the general public from various terrors.
For example, We have a provision of National Emergency in the Indian Constitution of India under Article 352 which states that the President can impose a national emergency in India if he feels that there are some external disturbances or armed rebellion. In a state of emergency, most of the fundamental rights of the citizens are taken away which are fundamental. Some are natural rights like the right to life, the right to equality, etc.
The argument against the Restriction of Human Rights for Public Safety:
- Violation of human rights is not only a violation of the rights of an individual, but it is a threat to the whole case and community.
- The nation is made of citizens and if their rights are violated then there is no point in a developed nation.
- There are some rights that are being provided by the nature to the being for their better living but to fulfill some political agendas and tactics, human rights should not be violated.
- The government has given special powers to different forces through various acts like AFSPA etc. which misuse their power to harm the civil rights of individuals.
AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act)
- AFSPA stands for Armed Forces Special Power Act.
- It was enacted in the year 1958 in the North-East states.
- It is enacted only when a state or region is declared as “distributed” by the central government.
- It has been in effect since and as of now is in force in the states of Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur excluding Imphal municipal council area, MeghalayaMizoram, and Changlang, Longding, and Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Some special powers are granted to the armed forces under this act to maintain law and order in disturbed areas.
Some of the powers that an armed officer is granted are:
- The officer can fire upon or use another kind of force even if it causes death, after giving due warning to the person who is acting against law and order.
- Arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed a cognizable crime or is suspected of doing so. Force may be used if necessary.
- Stop or search any vehicle if suspicious.
- The officer has legal immunity for their actions.
Recently, the Centre has removed AFSPA from 15 police station areas in seven districts of Nagaland, 15 police station areas in six districts of Manipur, 23 districts entirely, and one district partially in Assam.
Arguments in Favor of Restriction on Human rights on public safety
Nowadays the terror is increasing due to conflicts in various communities across the world. Terrorists have various advantages like technology, and fearlessness, to remove this terrorism from its root government should provide special powers to the armed forces through these powers restrict the human rights of citizens of the area but if these powers are used carefully and without misusing can be proved as a boon for the peace and welfare of the country.
Every coin has two faces. If restrictions on human rights in the name of public safety have, negative points, then they also can be boon to the community. There are some areas where terrorism is at its peak, control that few rules and regulations are imposed by the government to deal with and control the situation and in the process, if some rights of the citizens are infringed, it can be considered a win-win situation, but the only condition is that the restriction should not be in excess. It can be concluded that the result of the restriction on human rights for public safety depends on the handling of the situation.
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