New Delhi: The Supreme Court has significantly overruled its 2011 judgment holding that mere membership of banned associations is not sufficient to constitute an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act offence but that it needs to be accompanied with overt violence.

In an order which could have far reaching impact, a bench of Justices M.R. Shah, C.T. Ravikumar and Sanjay Karol also upheld Section 10(a)(i) of the UAPA, reported LiveLaw. The section deems that membership of an association which has been declared to be unlawful is an offence.

Legal scholar Gautam Bhatia has called the verdict, “one of the worst and most damaging civil rights judgments in its history.”

The 2011 judgment in the Arup Bhuyan vs State Of Assam case was delivered by a two-judge bench of Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra. The judges pronounced the order while deciding on Bhuyan’s bail application under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Bhuyan had been accused of having been a member of the banned ULFA.

“Mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence,” the bench had said.

Earlier in the same year, 2011, the bench had said the same while deciding on another bail application, this time under the UAPA, in State of Kerala vs Raneef.

The Union government filed an application seeking that the matter be referred to a larger bench, alleging that the bench had not heard the Union. In 2014, this plea was granted by a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A.M. Sapre.

In 2014, this matter was referred to a larger bench Justices Dipak Misra and AM Sapre

The current three-judge bench heard Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Sanjay Parikh (for an intervenor NGO).

This bench held that the 2011 orders had been passed in bail petitions and did not question the constitutionality of the provisions…

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