What the ban on the PFI means, other outfits banned by MHA

The MHA crackdown on PFI, including banning the organisation, draws strength from a 2019 amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967

PFIRepresentation Image | PTI

The 5-year old ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), invoked through a notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) late on the night of September 27, accused the PFI of “propagating ant-national sentiments”, “radicalising” a section of society and having links to other banned outfits.

The PFI and its associate groups are the 43rd organisation to be banned in India. Previously, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned 42 organisations under the UAPA for links to terror-related activities. Here’s a list of organisations banned under the UAPA by MHA:

1. Babbar Khalsa International
2. Khalistan Commando Force
3. Khalistan Zindabad Force
4. International Sikh Youth Federation
5. Lashkar-E-Taiba/Pasban-E-Ahle Hadis
6. Jaish-E-Mohammed/Tahrik-E-Furqan
7. Harkat-Ul-Mujahideen or Harkat-Ul-Ansar or Harkat-Ul-Jehad-E-Islami or Ansar-Ul-Ummah (AUU)
8. Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen/ Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment
9. Al-Umar-Mujahideen
10. Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front
11. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
12. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in Assam
13. People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
14. United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
15. People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)
16. Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
17. Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup (KYKL)
18. Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)
19. All Tripura Tiger Force
20. National Liberation Front of Tripura
21. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
22. Students Islamic Movement of India
23. Deendar Anjuman
24. Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) — People’s War, all its formations and front organizations
25. Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), all its formations and Front Organisations
26. Al Badr
27. Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen
28. Al-Qaida/Al-Qaida in Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) and all its manifestations
29. Dukhtaran-E-Millat (DEM)
30. Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA)
31. Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT)
32. Akhil Bharat Nepali Ekta Samaj (ABNES)
33. Organisations listed in the Schedule to the U.N. Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007 made under section 2 of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947 and amended from time to time
34. Communist Party of India (Maoist) all its formations and front organizations
35. Indian Mujahideen, all its formations and front organizations
36. Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), all its formations and front organizations
37. Kamatapur Liberation Organisation, all its formations and front organizations
38. Islamic State/Islamic State of Iraq and Levant/Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Daish/Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP)/ISIS Wilayat Khorasan/Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham-Khorasan (ISIS-K) and all its manifestations
39. National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) [NSCN(K)], all its formations and front organisations
40. The Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) and all its manifestations
41. Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) and all its manifestations
42. Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan and all its manifestations
43. Popular Front of India and its associates [Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CF), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala]

PFI and the Ban

Since 2019, repeated possibilities of a ban on this outfit have been circulated with three states actually advocating for the ban. Finally, the notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposed a ban on the PFI and its associate organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and Campus Front of India, for five years under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

Among the reasons cited, including that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisation but, they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country”.

The MHA notification also said that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country”.

Based on this, the notification said, the central government had decided to declare the PFI and its various fronts as an “unlawful association” with “immediate effect”.

Legal Basis for the “ban” on PFI

The UAPA, India’s counter-terror law, amended from 2004-2019, allows the government to declare an organisation an “unlawful association” or a “terrorist organisation”, which is often colloquially described as a “ban” on the organisations. Declaring an organisation a terrorist organisation, as has happened in the case of the PFI now, has serious consequences in law, which include the criminalisation of its membership and the forfeiture of the properties of the organisation.

The union government has rooted its 2019 amendment to the UA(P)A on the global action against terrorism. From 1997 onward, several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have required UN member states to take action against certain terrorists and terrorist organisations, to freeze their assets and other economic resources, to prevent their entry into or the transit through their territory, and to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of arms and ammunition to those individuals or entities listed in the relevant Schedule.

Definition of a “terrorist organisation”

Section 2(1)(m) of the UAPA defines a “terrorist organisation” as “an organisation listed in the First Schedule (to the UAPA) or an organisation operating under the same name as an organisation so listed” in the Schedule.

The First Schedule of the UAPA contains a list of organisations which is constantly updated by the government. The Schedule currently lists 42 organisations, the government had told the Rajya Sabha replying to a question on February 2 this year.  Besides these 42 organisations, 13 other entities have been declared as “unlawful associations” under the UAPA, and 31 individuals have been listed as “terrorists” under Schedule Four of the Act, the government had told Parliament.

It was an amendment in the UAPA in 2019 that also added a provision by which individuals can be designated as terrorists. The stated objective of the amendment was to “reduce” the chances of the regrouping of the leaders or members of banned organisations under other names.

Basis for declaring an organisation “terrorist”

It is under Section 35 of the UAPA, the central government has the powers to declare an organisation a terrorist organisation “only if it believes that it is involved in terrorism”.

The Schedule can be amended by the government to add or remove organisations from the list. The law states that an organisation shall be deemed to be involved in terrorism if it —

(a) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, or
(b) prepares for terrorism, or
(c) promotes or encourages terrorism, or
(d) is otherwise involved in terrorism.

Implications of an organisation is tagged as a “terrorist organisation”

Major implications and consequences of an organisation getting so tagged is one, the funding of the organisation, and the association of individuals with the organisation, are criminalised. The law contains the following provisions.
* Section 38(1) of the UAPA states that any person “who associates himself, or professes to be associated, with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities, commits an offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation”.
* Under Section 38(2) of the law, “a person, who commits the offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation under sub-section (1), shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or with fine, or with both.”
However, such individuals are exempted from the provision if they were members of the organisation before it was declared a terrorist organisation, and if they did not take part in any activities of the organisation at any time during its inclusion in the Schedule.
* Section 20 of the UAPA describes the “punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation”. It says, “Any person who is a member of a terrorist gang or a terrorist organisation, which is involved in terrorist act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
* Section 21 says that “whoever knowingly holds any property derived or obtained from commission of any terrorist act or acquired through the terrorist fund shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine”.
* Section 24A of the UAPA provides for forfeiture of the proceeds of terrorism. The law states that even if the person is not convicted for being associated with a terrorist organisation, “proceeds of terrorism” can be forfeited to the central government or the state government.

Remedies and recourse available to a organisation declared “terrorist”

An application can be made to the central government to remove an organisation from the Schedule by the organisation itself or any person affected by inclusion of the organisation in the Schedule. After this, a review committee is appointed which is headed by a sitting or former judge of a High Court to “judicially review” the application. The organisation will be removed from the MHA list if the review committee “considers that the decision to reject was flawed when considered in the light of the principles applicable on an application for judicial review”.


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