Daily News Analysis

National Security Act

31st May, 2021 Polity

GS PAPER II: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.

Context: A petition was filed in the Supreme Court to invoke the National Security Act in cases of hoarding, profiteering, adulteration and blackmarketing of essentials, including COVID drugs and equipment.

Evolution of NSA:

  • The Defense of India Act of 1915 was amended at the time of the First World War to enable the state to detain a citizen preventively.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 gave the powers of preventive detention to the State for reasons connected with defense, external affairs or discharge of functions of the Crown in its relations with the Indian States.

What is National Security Act?

  • Its purpose is "to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith".
  • The act extends to the whole of India.
  • This act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.
  • The act also gives power to the governments to detain a foreigner in a view to regulate his presence or expel from the country.
  • The maximum period of detention is 12 months.
  • The order can also be made by the District Magistrate or a Commissioner of Police under their respective jurisdictions, but the detention should be reported to the State Government along with the grounds on which the order has been made.
  • No such order shall remain in force for more than twelve days unless approved by the State Government.
  • The National Security Act may also be invoked if a person assaults a policeman on duty.

Criticism of NSA:

  • The Indian government has exploited the NSA by regularly detaining individuals, using the plea of preventing future disturbances of public order.
  • Government is showing overreliance on preventive detention even in the ordinary criminal cases.

Way forward:

  • India’s parliament and judiciary must revisit the NSA to close any loopholes that permit law enforcement to abuse constitutional and statutory rights.
  • It is time for India to catch up with the international community and recognise that preventive detention must not be used as an ordinary and regular law and order measure.