The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; Important Questions



  • What does this law do?

This law is now the main anti-terrorism law in India. Major changes were made to it in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks, creating new offences related to terrorism.

This law also allows the government to declare that a group is an ‘unlawful association’ or a ‘terrorist organisation’, and make membership or support of that group a crime.

  • What sorts of crimes are punished?
  • Committing or helping with acts of terrorism.
  • Terrorism financing.
  • Membership of groups that have been banned by the Government under this law.

  • Who does this law apply to?

This law applies to:

  • Every person in India;
  • Persons outside of India who commit these crimes;
  • Indian citizen abroad who commit any crime;
  • Government servants;
  • Persons who commit these crimes on an Indian ship or plane.

  • Who is a ‘person’ under this law?

A person is defined broadly to not only include a human being, but also any legal entity.

  • What does ‘proceeds of terrorism’ mean?

It means money or property either earned through terrorist activities, or to be used in terrorist activities.

  • What is ‘unlawful activity’ under this law?
  • Encouraging separatism from India.
  • Damaging India’s status as a sovereign nation in any way.
  • Causing hatred against India.

The Supreme Court, in the context of sedition, has explained that an element of violence or encouraging violence must be present in this type of crime.

  • What is an ‘unlawful association’?

Any organisation that has the goal of

  • encouraging the ‘unlawful activities’ explained above, or
  • causing hatred between different social groups,

can be named as an unlawful association under this law. In Jammu and Kashmir, groups can be named as unlawful only due to the first reason, not the second.

  • What are ‘unlawful associations’?

The Central Government maintains a list of unlawful associations. It can add items to this list if it thinks that

  • the organisation’s activities are supporting secession from India, or
  • the organisation is trying to affect India’s status as an independent nation, or
  • the organisation is causing enmity towards India.

  • What is the outcome of this list?

Once an organisation is on this list, membership of such an organisation becomes a crime. Money going to it can be blocked and the places it uses can be monitored.

  • How is this list updated?

When adding any association to the list, the Central Government has to explain why it was added. However, if revealing any fact is against public interest, the Central Government can keep it secret.Additions to the list have to be approved by the UAPA Tribunal and published in the Gazette.However, if it is an urgent matter, the addition can be finalised before approval is taken.The addition has to be made public. It has to be:

  • published in a newspaper;
  • put up as a notice in the unlawful association’s office; or
  • announced in public in places where the association operates.

  • How is the ‘unlawful association’ list confirmed?

The Central Government is supposed to refer all additions to the unlawful associations list to the UAPA Tribunal in 30 days’ time.

The Tribunal then hears from the association, gets more information on the matter and either confirms or cancels the Central Government’s addition.

  • What is the UAPA Tribunal?

The Tribunal is basically a current High Court Judge who has the power to decide on various issues under this law.

  • How long does an association stay on the ‘unlawful’ list?

Once the Tribunal has approved it, the addition stays for 5 years. However, the Central Government can cancel it at any time.

  • What happens once an organization is on the ‘unlawful’ list?

In relation to its money:

  • Any money being used by that organization can be blocked.
  • The accounts of the organisation can be examined, and people connected to the money can be questioned.
  • If any money is blocked, it can be challenged in a District Court within 15 days.

  • What happens once an association is on the ‘unlawful’ list?

If there is any place, like a house or a building, that is being used by the association, the Government can:

  • Notify that place.
  • Prevent people who don’t live there from entering that place without permission from the District Magistrate.
  • Search any persons entering that place (by a Sub-Inspector rank or above).
  • Make a list of items in the place, and prevent their use, if they are being used for the unlawful association.
  • The District Magistrate can give specific orders before allowing any person to enter the place. If a person disobeys, he can be made to leave the place.

If a place is notified under this section, a person can challenge the order in District Court.

  • What happens to members of unlawful associations?
Crime Punishment
Helping out the organisation by:

  • being a member;
  • going to meetings;
  • giving money or raising money; or
  • helping in any other way.
Up to 2 years’ jail, and also fine.
Causing death, while being a member of the organisation, and carrying guns, bombs or other weapons of mass destruction. Death sentence, or life imprisonment and fine.
As a member, if you seriously hurt any person or property while carrying such weapons. Minimum jail time: 5 yearsMaximum jail time: Life Imprisonment

  • What happens if you handle money for an unlawful association?

If there is an order against you blocking you from handling any money, and you disobey the order:

  • You can go to jail for up to 3 years, or you can be fined
  • The Court can also fine you the amount that you were handling.

  • What happens if you violate an order regarding any place?

If the Government has notified a place, saying it was used by an unlawful association:

  • Disobeying such an order can lead to 1 year of jail and also fine.

  • What actions are punished as ‘unlawful activities’? What are the punishments?

If you:

  • do any unlawful activity (such as encouraging violent hatred of India as a country), or
  • encourage, or help an unlawful association to do an unlawful activity

then you can go to jail for up to 5 years.

An exception is made if anyone is acting under a treaty signed by the government.

A cognizable offence is one that the police can investigate without permission from the Magistrate. Any crime under this law can be investigated directly by the police.

  • What is an act of terrorism?

This is the main law that defines terrorist acts in Indian law. The following are the types of terrorist acts:

Bombings or other actions to destabilize the country:

  • If a person does a violent act because he wants to (a) threaten India’s status as a secure, independent nation, or (b) strike terror in the minds of people in India, then it is a ‘terrorist act’.
  • This act must be done using bombs or chemical weapons, or other such dangerous material.
  • The act has to be capable of killing people, damaging property, cutting off essential supplies like electricity or water or tampering with the Indian financial system by forgery etc.
Trying to kill an important government official.
Hijacking or kidnapping in order to force the government to do something.
Acts that are listed in the Second Schedule of this Act are also terrorist acts.

  • What is the punishment for a terrorist act?
If… Punishment
Some has died as a result of the terrorist act Death sentence, or life imprisonment
If no one has died Minimum: 5 yearsMaximum: Life imprisonment

  • What is the crime of financing terrorists?

If a person collects money, from any source, in order to help a terrorist, he can go to jail for 5 years to life.

He must know that the money was going to be used by a terrorist or a group of terrorists.

It doesn’t matter if he actually manages to collect any money, or if the money was actually used. He will be held guilty anyway if he tried to collect the money and help a terrorist financially.

  • What is the punishment for organizing of terrorist camps?

As specified in Section 18 A

Crime Punishment
Organising training camps for terrorists. 5 years to life imprisonment

  • What is the punishment for recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act

As specified Section 18 B

Crime Punishment
Getting other people involved in doing a terrorist act. 5 years to life imprisonment

  • What is the punishment for harbouring, etc.

As specified in Section 19

Crime Punishment
Hiding a terrorist, while knowing he is a terrorist. 3 years to life imprisonment

  • What is the punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation?

As specified in Section 20

Crime Punishment
Belonging to a terrorist organisation. Up to life imprisonment

  • Punishment for holding proceeds of terrorism

As specified in Section 21

Crime Punishment
Owning property gained as a result of a terrorist act. Up to life imprisonment

  • Punishment for threatening witness

As specified in Section 22

Crime Punishment
Threatening a witness under this law. Up to life imprisonment

  • Can a company be punished in connection with a terrorist act?

Yes, actions like being involved in terrorism funding can be committed by companies. The company will be directly prosecuted by the government.

In addition, the people in charge can be prosecuted. Such people will have to prove that they did not know about the illegal actions committed by the company.

If any officer was directly involved in the crime, they can be prosecuted as individuals as well.

  • Can a society or trust be punished in connection with a terrorist act?

Yes, actions like being involved in terrorism funding can be committed by societies or trusts. The society or trust will be directly prosecuted by the government.

In addition, the people in charge can be prosecuted. Such people will have to prove that they did not know about the illegal actions committed by the company.

If any officer was directly involved in the crime, they can be prosecuted as individuals as well.

  • What is the punishment for members of a company, society or trust involved in terrorist activities?

The punishment for this crime is between 7 years and life imprisonment. The fine will be between rupees five crores and ten crores

  • What happens if other laws are broken during a terrorist act?

For some crimes, like handling bombs or illegal weapons, the punishment can be increased if the crime was committed in connection with terrorism.

  • What happens to money or property connected to terrorism?

The Government can take control of it, according to the process described in this Chapter of the law.

  • What is the process for taking control of property related to terrorism?

While investigating a terrorism related crime, an officer can come across property he suspects is connected to the crime. He can take control of it with the approval of the Director General of Police.

The ‘Designated Authority’ which is either a Joint Secretary of the Central Government or Secretary in the State Government has to approve the order within 60 days. In cases involving cash, it has to be approved within 48 hours.

The person whose property was taken can present his case to this Authority first. He can also go to court to argue against this action.

  • What happens to property seized in connection to terrorism?

If a police officer takes control of property under this law, it can be permanently taken over by the Government, by an order of the court.

  • What is the procedure for this?
  • Before permanently taking over the property, the court has to hear the arguments of the owner. If the court orders the forfeiture of the property anyway, the owner can appeal to the High Court.
  • If the owner proves he has no knowledge of the terrorism connection, his property should not be taken over.
  • The court can order that the property be sold off. The court can also impose any other punishment on the person, in keeping with this law.

  • Briefly explain the Section 29 of this Act?

Order of forfeiture not to interfere with other punishments

If a different person, who is not the owner, claims the property, the Authority will hear him as long as it does not delay matters too much.

  • Briefly explain the Section 31 of this Act?

Powers of designated authority

The Authority has powers similar to a court.

  • Briefly explain the Section 32 of this Act?

Certain transfers to be null and void

In case any property is sold off after the government has taken over, the sale will be invalid.

  • Briefly explain the Section 33 of this Act?

Forfeiture of property of certain persons

Whenever a person is in trial, or found guilty of any crime under this law, the court can also take over his property.

  • Briefly explain the Section 34 of this Act?

Company to transfer shares to government

In case the property that government takes over is shares of a company, the company has to register the government as the new owner.

  • Briefly explain the Section 35 of this Act?

Amendment of Schedule, etc.

The government keeps a list of identified terrorist organisations in the First Schedule to this law. The Central Government can add or remove organisations from this list if it believes that an organisation is involved with terrorism in any way.

  • How does a group get removed from the list?

If a group has been named in the list of terrorist organisations, it can apply to the Central Government to review the decision.

The decision will be reviewed by a Committee of three people, one of them being a High Court judge.

If the Committee decides that the addition of the organisation was wrong (although the standard for this is very high), then Government has to remove the organisation.

  • What are the crimes related to being a member of a terrorist organisation?
Crime Punishment
Associating with a terrorist organisation. A person is guilty of this unless he can prove that:

  • When he became a member, the group was not named as a terrorist organisation, and
  • Once it became a terrorist organisation, he no longer participated.
Up to 10 years

  • What are the crimes related to supporting a terrorist organisation?
Crime Punishment
Asking others to support a terrorist organisation. Up to 10 years
Arranges meetings between people to assist a terrorist organisation. Up to 10 years
Speaks at meetings to encourage support for a terrorist organisation. Up to 10 years

  • What are the crimes related to raising funds for a terrorist organisation?
Crime Punishment
Raising or handling funds to be used for terrorism purposes. This includes forgery of money for these purposes. Up to 14 years

  • What if an unlawful association changes its name?

This will not be enough to make it lawful. As long as some of its members continue to act together, it continues to exist as an unlawful association.

  • Briefly explain the Section 42 of this Act?

Power to delegate

This section has to do with government procedure. Usually, the Central Government has been given the power to issue orders about unlawful organisations. This section says that the State government can be granted these powers as well.

  • Briefly explain the Section 43 of this Act?

Officers competent to investigate offence under Chapters IV and VI

Only senior officers are allowed to investigate the main crimes under this law.

  • For the police of major cities, it has to be an Assistant Police Commissioner or above.
  • For the CBI (legally known as the Delhi Special Police Establishment), and all other types of police, it has to be a Deputy Superintendent or above.

  • What are the Powers of arrest specified under this law –

The powers of arrest under this law are wider than for ordinary criminal law. Certain officers can arrest a person based on personal knowledge, or any other source of information.

  • What happens when someone is arrested under this law?
  • They have to be told why they are being arrested.
  • They have to be taken to the officer in charge of the nearest police station.
  • Otherwise the general law will apply.

  • Briefly explain the Section 43 C of this Act?

Application of provisions of Code

Generally, the ordinary law of criminal procedure, applies to terrorism trials as well.

  • Are criminal procedures different for terrorism trials than other trials?

Yes, in some respects. This section explains when criminal trial procedure will be different.

  • The police can investigate every crime under this law. They never need permission from a Magistrate to start investigation.
  • Under this law, the police can arrest and hold a person without warrant for longer periods than for other crimes.
  • Anticipatory bail (where you are given bail even before you get arrested) is not available under this law.
  • Bail is much stricter under this law. If the judge believes that the accusations are not completely unbelievable, bail is usually denied. A foreign citizen is granted bail even more rarely.
  • Usually, the State Government has the power to order that certain prisoners are not taken out of prison to be taken to court. Under this law, this power is given to the Central Government as well.

  • Briefly explain the Section 43 E of this Act?

Presumption as to offence under section 15

Presumption of innocence in a terrorism trial is different from general law on crimes. Usually, it is presumed that a person is innocent until proven guilty. This section says that:

  • if guns or bombs, similar to those used in a terrorist attack are found with the accused person, or
  • if fingerprints or other strong evidence is found connecting the accused person;

then court will have to assume he is guilty, until he proves he is innocent.

  • Briefly explain the Section 43 F of this Act?

Obligation to furnish information

It is a crime to not give information in connection with a terrorism investigation.

If a police officer is investigating a crime under this law, he can, with permission from the Superintendent, order any person or entity to give information. Failure to do so is a crime.

  • What measures are there to protect witnesses appearing in terrorism trials?
  • The trial can be held in a closed room, without members of the public attending.
  • The judge can order any measures necessary to protect the life of a witness. This can include:
  • not mentioning the witnesses’ name in public documents;
  • holding the trial in a safer location; or
  • ordering that the identity of the witnesses be kept secret.
  • Violation of orders like these can lead to jail for up to three years.

  • Briefly explain the Section 45 of this Act?

Cognizance of offences

This deals with legal procedure. Usually, courts can start criminal proceedings on their own. Under this law, however, for a court to start a trial for a crime under this law, it needs approval from the government, who will first review the case.

  • Can proof collected through wiretaps be used in a terrorism trial?

Yes. This is not allowed for other crimes, but is allowed for terrorism offences.

The accused persons will have to be told 10 days in advance that this wiretap evidence is going to be used.

If for some reason it is not possible to tell the accused person 10 days in advance, the judge can choose to overlook the violation.

  • Briefly explain the Section 47 of this Act?

Bar of jurisdiction

This relates to legal procedure. It says that any action taken by the Central Government or a District Magistrate under this law, such as seizing property, cannot be questioned in a civil court.

  • Briefly explain the Section 48 of this Act?

Effect of Act and rules, etc inconsistent with other enactments

This law will override other laws.

  • Briefly explain the Section 49 of this Act?

Protection of action taken in good faith

This is a standard section in many laws. It says that if a government officer is acting sincerely under this law, then he cannot be sued for those actions.

  • Briefly explain the Section 50 of this Act?


A military court or a military officer’s powers will not be affected by this law.

  • Briefly explain the Section 51 of this Act?

Impounding of passport and arms licence of person charge-sheeted under the Act

If a chargesheet is filed against a person under this law, his passport and arms license is automatically taken away.

  • What are the financial powers of the Government in relation to terrorism?

The Central Government can:

  • freeze assets of any person,
  • block anyone from giving funds to a suspected terrorist,
  • block suspected terrorists from entering India.


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