Misuse of Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act, 1985, has been a recurring theme with police forces of Gujarat. New cases are emerging every day, where the act was used by the police to detain someone without repercussions.
The act in itself somehow offers a freehand to the police as it does not specifically pinpoint what anti-social activities actually entail. Under the PASA Act, police can detain anyone without notice who they think is behaving in a ‘manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order’. Furthermore the act only states that if activities of a person or persons ‘is causing or is likely to cause any harm, danger or alarm or feeling of insecurity among the general public or any section thereof or [there is a] grave or widespread danger to life, property or public health’ then the police can make the arrest. Recently, this act was extended to include cyber crimes as well.
However, the lose statues in the Act seem to be causing more problems than anything. Throughout the state, cases have emerged where person or persons have been arrested and detained under PASA for nothing at all. When several cases were heard, the local courts have dismissed them and have warned the police against wrongly using PASA.
In a latest case, a timber trader has been booked and arrested repeatedly just for his Right to Information queries. Divyang Patel, 42, needed information to prove his innocence in a case of wood theft so he had filed several applications for RTI. However, Vyara police station in Tapi district, presumably fed up with his repeated queries, charged him with PASA twice. He was once booked in 2015 and again in 2017, and he ended up spending a total of 14 days in jail.
In a more well-known case, a Vadodara-based doctor Mitesh Thakkar was detained by the police on the suspicion of the sale of one Remdesivir injection in 2021. Dr. Thakkar, who had at the time treated nearly 3,000 COVID patients, gained freedom after more than 100 days in jail.