Context: The Indore district administration invoked the National Security Act, 1980, against four persons accused of instigating residents of a locality to pelt stones and chase away health workers .

More on News:

  • A joint team of health workers, revenue officials, anganwadi workers, municipal officials and police personnel were visiting the tatpatti bakhal area of the city to trace the contact history of a COVID-19 patient when they were pelted with stones.
  • By instigating residents of the locality to obstruct administrative work, some mischievous elements not only tried to play with their lives but with those residing in the whole city.
  • The administration invoked Section 3(2) of the Act and passed an order to move the four accused to the Rewa Central jail.
  • With most patients from Indore having no recorded contact or travel history, health workers are yet to zero in on the source of the COVID-19 outbreak locally. 
  • Of the 111 cases in Madhya Pradesh so far, Indore alone has recorded 82 cases.



It empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person in order to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security.

Key Provisions

  • Under this a person can be detained if he is: 
    • Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
    • Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India
  • The government can also detain a person to prevent him from disrupting public order or for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. 
  • A three person Advisory Board made up of high court judges or persons qualified to be high court judges determines the legitimacy of any order made for longer than three months.
  • If approved,the maximum period for which one may be detained can be 12 months
  • But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.

Previous Acts before NSA:

Pre Independence

  • Bengal Regulation III of 1818: It empowered the colonial government to arrest anyone for defense or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings. 
  • Rowlatt Acts of 1919: A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial. 

Post Independence

  • Preventive Detention Act of 1950: Post-independence India got its first preventive detention rule when the government enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950. The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act
  • Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA),1971: After the Preventive Detention Act expired in 1969, the then government brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government. 
  • National Security Act,1980: Though the MISA was repealed in 1977, the successive government brought in the NSA.

How detention under this is different from normal detention ?

  • In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights. 
    • These include the right to be informed of the reason for the arrest. 
    • The Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) mandates that the person arrested has to be informed of the grounds of arrest, and the right to bail
    • The Cr. PC also provides that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest. 
    • Additionally, Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

Article 22(1) states that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.

  • Under NSA:
    • A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days. 
    • Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose. 
    • The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

Criticism of NSA:

  • Gives extra-judicial power: Experts say that governments sometimes use NSA as an extra-judicial power to curb dissent. For instance, the government can detain a person for as long as it wishes to. 
  • Subversion of fundamental rights for national security: For example, protection against detention as provided under Article 22 and Cr.PC are not available when NSA is imposed.
  • Lack of data to assess its performance: The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not include cases under the NSA in its collection and analysis of data as no FIRs are registered w.r.t to NSA.
  • Used based on political or ideological differences: This promotes arbitrary use of the act to curb dissent. 
    • Recently some people were booked under it in U.P based on alleged cow slaughter. 
    • Similarly a journalist in Manipur was detained under it after writing an alleged facebook post against the CM.
  • Undermine national security: To invoke the NSA in cases where sections of the IPC would suffice is to undermine its efficacy as a tool to protect national security.

Arguments in Favour:

  • To curtail Anti-national elements: including terrorists, extremists, radical elements among others which threaten the unity and integrity of the nation.  
  • Expeditious Information gathering:Terrorists may use the provisions of innocence under normal laws to evade crucial details required immediately by the law enforcement agencies.  
  • Misuse is not an excuse for repeal- Mere allegation of misuse in particular cases should not undermine the efficacy in majority cases. Moreover one can find evidence of misuse in other cases as well like murder,dowry,rape etc..  
  • It falls under the ambit of reasonable restrictions provided under Article 19 (2) as Security of State is a ground there.

Road Ahead:

  • There needs to be a balance drawn between security of the state and ensuring rights of the people.
  • The law enforcement agencies must be sufficiently guided as to where the section must be imposed and where not. 
  • For this robust training coupled with uniform guidelines needs to be formulated.