Syllabus subtopic: Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the National security act and why it needs to be amended
News: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass a “blanket order” against Lieutenant Governor’s decision to place Delhi under the National Security Act (NSA), a law which allows the police to place anyone considered a threat to national security, law and order under preventive detention.
- The NSA was imposed from January 19 to April 18.
- The notification was issued on January 10 amidst widespread protests across the Capital by people belonging to all walks of life against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, which grants citizenship on the basis of religion.
What was the petition about?
- The petitioner had submitted that the imposition of NSA was a ruse to scare ordinary people from expressing their fundamental right to dissent on issues like the CAA, the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register Citizens (NRC).
- The lawyer argued that the January 10 notification was an affront to free speech and expression and the right to dignity.
Reasons cited by the court
- The court cannot pass such general directions, which would “tie” the hands of the authorities.
- These are law and order issues and therefore the court cannot interfere. SC cannot pass a general direction or a blanket order restraining the government from invoking NSA, but it can definitely do something if individual cases of misuse of NSA by authorities are brought to its attention.
About the National Security Act, 1980
- National Security Act allows Central or State governments to prevent any person from acting as a threat to national security.
- The Act also allows the government to preventively detain any person from disrupting supply or maintenance of essential commodities and services to the community or disrupting public order.
- As per the act, a person can be detained for a maximum of 12 months but can be extended when fresh evidence is produced by the government.
Preventive detention in India
- Preventive Detention is the most contentious part of the scheme fundamental rights in the Indian constitutions Article 22(3) provides that if the person who has been arrested or detained under preventive detention laws then the protection against arrest and detention provided under article22 (1) and22 (2) shall not be available to that person.
- Acts that allow preventive detention in India are present since colonial times.
- From the Bengal Resolution III of 1818 to Rowlatt Acts of 1919 and the Preventive Detention Act of 1950, all allow preventive detention.
- The current NSA is close to the 1950 Act.
- When a person is arrested normally, he or she has certain guarantees to safeguard their basic rights such as being informed of the reason for the arrest, the right to apply for bail, etc. But these rights do not apply for a person arrested under the NSA.
- No FIR is filed under the Act. He/she will not be informed on the grounds for their arrest for 5 days and in some cases, it may of up to 10 days.
- The arrested person is cannot avail legal assistance before an advisory board constituted by the government to deal with NSA cases.
- Also, the exact data on how many people are detained under the NSA is not clear as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) do not collect data on NSA cases.
Arguements against the Act
- The NSA Act is being misused by all the governments in the country.
- The intended objective to prevent acts that harm our national security is set aside and is being used for self-interests.
- It is like the government is using the act as an extra-judicial power.
In spreading democracy often acts such as this hampers the progress. Already, the act is 40 years old and reconsidering it is the need of the hour. Or else, the scary scenario of arbitrary detention for personal goals becomes the norm which does not augur well for the country.