Manisha Sethi


This paper examines the evolution of the anti-terror legislation in India from Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987 (TADA), through Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 (POTA) to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This paper attends specifically to the jurisprudential tension between the promise of constitutional safeguards on the one hand, and the legal erosion of these rights inhering in these laws on the other. The paper seeks to understand how this tension is resolved, philosophically and jurisprudentially in addressing challenges to these laws in the Supreme Court. How, first, did the Supreme Court respond to the allegation that these laws suffered from the “the vice of unconstitutionality”. Second, having upheld the constitutional wholesomeness of these laws, how did different courts respond in actual cases being tried under these laws – which legally subverted established evidentiary rules? It is argued that the tension remains unresolved – despite professions to the contrary – and can be seen operating in the juridical field.