Lakshadweep is a union territory made up of 35 small islands having total surface area of about 32.62 sq.km which is even less than a small city, according to 2011 census. Total population of the island is about 60 to 70,000 people. The UT has a beautiful variety of biodiversity, wildlife and nature and is very less populated. Also it is a very clean and least polluted place as compared to other cities and states of India. It can be said that nature is in its purest state in UT’s like Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Politicaly, there is no Legislative Assembly over there and no Chief Minister. Its political framework is divided into 3 levels:
- Member of parliament in Lok Sabha (who is currently Mohammad Faizal of NCP)
- Local self government i.e. panchayats
- An administrator appointed by the President of India who is responsible for the governance of whole Lakshadweep Island.
Until 2020, the administrator was Dineshwar Sharma who was an IPS officer. Basically bureaucrats were appointed for this position. On 4 December 2020, he died and after that a Politician was made the administrator of Lakshadweep, unfollowing the tradition of appointing an IAS or IPS officer as the Administrator.
The politician appointed as the administrator was Praful Khoda Patel, who is a BJP leader. Currently he is the administrator of 2 UT’s i.e. Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep.
Among the various changes which Praful K Patel made after being appointed as an administrator of Lakshadweep, PASA Act is one of the laws which was passed recently in Lakshadweep and came out to be highly controversial.
PASA ACT / GOONDA ACT
PASA ACT – Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act.
Under this act any person can be detained without public disclosure up to a period of one year.
The act was introduced in January 2021 by the Administrator of Lakshadweep Praful K Patel.
The relevant Provisions of the Act are as follows:
- The Object of the act is to provide for preventive detention of bottleggers, dangerous persons, drug offenders, immoral traffic offenders, property grabbers, cyber offenders, moneylending offenders, cruel persons, depredators of environment and sexual offenders for preventing their anti social and dangerous activities prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
- Section 3: (1) If the administrator is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary in order to prevent him from doing any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of public order, he can make an order directing the detention of such person.
- 3(2) He can also give such powers to the District Magistrate within his local jurisdiction, under certain conditions.
- 3(3)Any order made under this section by an authorised officer has to be approved by the administrator within 12 days. Failing which, it will cease to remain in force.
- Section 5: Any detained person can be shifted or removed from one place to another within the union territory of Lakshadweep, on administrator’s order.
- Section 7(1): In case the person against whom an order of detention is made has absconded or concealing himself so that order of dentention cannot be executed, then in respect of such person, provisions of Section 82-86 of Criminal Procedure Code shall apply.
- 7(2)(a): The administrator or authorised officer can also by notice in the Official Gazette direct such person to appear before court.
- 7(2)(b): In case of non compliance of this order, such person on conviction, shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of one year or with fine or with both.
- Section 8(1): The detained person shall be informed of the grounds of his detention within seven days and shall also be given an opportunity of representation against the order of administrator.
- Section 9(1): The administrator can constitute one or more Advisory Boards, wherever necessary, for the purposes of this regulation.
- 9(2): Every Advisory Board shall consist of a Chairman and two other members, who are or who have been judges of any High Court, or who under the constitution of India, are eligible to be appointed as the judges of any High Court.
- Section 10: The administrator shall place before the Advisory Board constituted under section 9 of this act, the grounds of the order within three weeks.
- Section 11(1): The Advisory Board shall upon considering the materials placed before it and calling for such information as it considers necessary from the Administrator or from any person called for such purpose as it deems necessary and if the Advisory Board considers it necessary or if the detenu desires to be heard, after hearing the detenu in person,submit its report to the administrator within seven weeks, from the date of detention of the detenu.
- 11(2): The Advisory Board shall specify in its order whether there are sufficient grounds for detention or not.
- Section 12: If the Advisory Board is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for detention then the person will be detained for one year maximum. Otherwise if there are no sufficient grounds for detention, then the administrator shall revoke the detention order and release the person detained.
- Section 13: The maximum period for which an order of detention can be made under this regulation shall be one year from the date of detention.
- Section 15: The detention order can be revoked or modified at anytime by the administrator And reasons must be recorded in writing.
- Section 16(1): The Administrator may at anytime direct that any detained person be released for any specified period, after recording reasons in writing, with or without conditions and may at anytime, cancel his release.
- 16(2): When an order of release is made the administrator may require such person to enter into a bond with or without sureties to ensure the due observance of conditions specified in the order.
- 16(3): The detenu is entitled to surrender himself according to the directions mentioned in the order.
- 16(4): In case of non compliance, the detenu is entitled to punishment of imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
- Section 17: Any person who harbours or conceals such person against whom order of detention is made, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than three months which may extend up to one year and fine upto ₹1000.
- Section 19: No suit or prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against administrator or any other authorised person, for anything done in good faith or done in pursuance of this legislation.
- Section 20: All offences or willful violations of lawful orders made under this regulation shall be Cognizable and Non- Bailable.
This particular act has given rise to a lot of controversy. It is being criticised by people of Lakshadweep as well as media, opposing parties, celebrities, etc.
Now, before moving towards Arguments in Favour of and Against PASA Act, let us first look at the political history of Lakshadweep’s Administrator Praful Khoda Patel. Since it will help to figure out the nature of the said legislation more effectively.
POLITICAL HISTORY OF PRAFUL KHODA PATEL
- He started his political career from Gujarat as a Member of Legislative Assembly(MLA) in 2007.
- In 2010, when Amit Shah was arrested by CBI, PK Patel was appointed Minister of State Home of Gujarat by Narendra Modi.
- In 2014, when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, PK Patel was then appointed as the administrator of Union Territory of Daman and Diu . There also the same tradition of appointing an IAS or IPS officer as the administrator was followed but then a politician was appointed as the administrator.
- After that in 2016 , Dadra and Nagar Haveli which is another union territory, PK Patel was appointed as its administrator. Therefore now he was the administrator of two Union Territories.
- In April 2019, when there were elections in both these union territories(i.e. Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) Caravan Magazine reported that the Election Commission has issued a notice to PK Patel because he made a coercive request to the then collector of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Karan Gopinathan. The Election Commission admonished PK Patel for this and after some time, Karan Gopinathan resigned from his post.
- In 2019 in Daman, 90 homes were demolished that were on sea front land. It was said that this was done for progress. MP of Daman Lalu Patel requested to the collector to restore these homes on humanitarian grounds. It was said that the people whose homes were demolished can apply for loan in Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana. Protests increased and protestors were detained in temporary jails made up in government schools.
- In December 2019, the Parliament passed a bill to merge 2 Union Territories Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and make them a single Union Territory. By merging these two Union Territories they were made one Union Territory and the first administrator of this newly constituted Union Territory was none other than Praful K Patel.
- In February 2021, 7 time MP of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Mohan Delkar and also a tribal rights activist, committed suicide in a Mumbai hotel. He left a 15-page suicide note written in Gujarati language and the person named in that suicide note was Praful K Patel. It was alleged by his son that his father was harrassed by Patel and rupees 25 crores were demanded from him, failing which he was threatened by Patel that false cases would be filed against him under PASA Act.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF PASA ACT
- The administrator of Lakshadweep PK Patel says that he has introduced this legislation so that crime rate can be controlled.
He argues that if people had not done anything wrong then they should not be concerned about this act. Only those who have committed a crime will be penalised under this act.
- Another argument which supports the legislation is that the act was necessary in order to crackdown smuggling of weapons and narcotics in the Island.
- The Act has been passed for the development of the Island and to make it a “Smart City”, as stated by PK Patel. He said that they were laying foundation for the development of islands in a planned way and to develop it like Maldives in the next two decades.
- The administrator also stated that a holistic development is being planned for these islands. This is done to ensure security of the islands as they are very critical.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST PASA ACT
- An argument that counters the statement, that the act has been passed so that crime rate can be controlled in the Island, is that in the whole country, Lakshadweep has a lowest crime rate, according to the data.
- Even if crime rate is not the lowest, then also there is no sense in making such law because it is against the Principles of Natural Justice given under the Constitution of India, such as writ of Habeas Corpus given under article 32 of the Constitution, under which an arrested person has to be brought before the magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest otherwise such detention would be considered to be illegal. The PASA act goes against such rules. Therefore, such law is anti- democratic.
- As far as making Lakshadweep a Smart city is concerned, Lakshadweep is in itself a group of tiny islands where nature is preserved so beautifully. Smart cities can be built in rest of the parts of India which actually need development. There is no such need of disturbing the beautiful environment, biodiversity and nature of the Island for the sake of making it a smart city.
- Upon looking on the provisions of this act, as has been discussed above in this, we can see that some provisions of the act or arbitrary and opposed to the democracy of the country.
- According to Marine Biologist and Scientist Rohan Arthur: the kind of development the administrator of Lakshadweep wants to envisage will cause the delicate ecology of the island to unravel.
- Local people criticise it because they fear that the motive behind such preventive detention law is to choke off protests against the administrator’s decisions. So that whosoever criticises or stands against his policies and decisions could be easily detained by the police without the public even knowing about it.
- It has also been there in the news that Patel works in a non- consultative manner which is being greatly criticised. The elected representatives were not consulted in making up the PASA act which again goes against the democratic rule of the country. Such kind of working is criticised rather than being appreciated.
- Protests are growing on island and also on social media. People are highly criticising such controversial regulation. Apart from local residents, celebrities and opposition political parties are also calling for withdrawal of such laws.
- The act is also being criticised on the ground that the administration of Lakshadweep is trying to impose police rule on people.
They argue that it is an attempt to intimidate local people.
Lakshadweep is a group of islands where people are educated, air is unpolluted, no pollution, no garbage, having clean and beautiful beaches. There is no crime, no problem of overpopulation, the people living there do fishing for their livelihood in a sustainable manner. The fishing does not affect the population of fishes there at all. There is a little tourism through which the people living there earn their livelihood. The beauty of the place is mesmerising. There is harmony and peace among the people.
Then when a politician is appointed as the administrator of such a place his duty is to firstly ensure the continuity of harmony and peace of the people. He must protect the beauty of the place. Steps must be taken by him to increase and ensure the beauty, rich biodiversity, wildlife and nature and also to look after the needs of the people. The problems faced by the people must be resolved. Their legible demands must be fulfilled so that the harmony of such place is preserved.
But when laws such as PASA Act is introduced it disturbs the harmony and peace of the people. Such laws ruins everything. They are against the democratic principles as well as rules of natural justice. A feeling of hatred is generated among the people. People are coming out on streets to protest, of course they will do so since there is no solid reason behind the enforcement of such controversial legislations.
The crime rate is also the lowest in the island hence the argument that PASA Act is introduced to reduce the crime rate, falls out.
According to Patel, the only agenda behind such law is the development, he compares Lakshadweep to Maldives. But the question that what kind of development is this and actually for whom, still remains unanswered.
The enforcement of PASA Act in such a peaceful place clearly implies the political mastermind being played and exercised over there. It is basically being implemented to totally resist any non-obeyance or protest against arbitrary policies of the administrator Praful Patel. So that he can do what he want for his own political benefits without being opposed by the public.
There is a need to modify or amend such arbitrary, unnecessary law in order to maintain the beauty, peace, harmony and law and order in Lakshadweep. So that it can continue to be a Union Territory of India which has beautifully preserved natural biodiversity.
 Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulatiom,2021, No.60,Acts of Parliament,2021(India)
 Sudha Ramachandran, Lakshadweep: Trouble in Paradise, The Diplomat( June 7,2021, 3:20 PM), thediplomat.com
Author: Nancy Goel from Amity Law School, Noida.