National Security Act

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    In News

    • Recently, the National Security Act has been invoked in the case of self-styled Sikh preacher and on-the-run Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh.

    About National Security Act, 1980

    • About:
      • The National Security Act was passed by the Parliament in 1980 and has been amended several times since then. 
      • NSA “empowers the state to detain a person without a formal charge and without trial”.
    • Need of NSA:
      • Under the Act, a person is taken into custody to prevent them from acting in any manner prejudicial to “the security of the state” or for “maintenance of the public order”
    • Administrative order of District Magistrate:
      • It is an administrative order passed either by the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate (DM) and not detention ordered by police based on specific allegations or for a specific violation of the law.
    • Key highlights of NSA:
      • Even if a person is in police custody, the District Magistrate can slap NSA against them. 
      • Or, if a person has been granted bail by a trial court, they can be immediately detained under the NSA. 
      • If the person has been acquitted by the court, the same person can be detained under the NSA. 
      • The law takes away an individual’s constitutional right to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours, as is the case when the accused is in police custody. 
      • The detained person also does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court.
    • Grounds of detention:
      • NSA can be invoked to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers or the security of India
      • Among others, it can also be applied to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supply and services essential to the community.
    • Period of detention:
      • An individual can be detained without a charge for a maximum period of 12 months
      • The detained person can be held for 10 to 12 days in special circumstances without being told the charges against them.

    Protection available under the Act

    • Representation before an independent advisory board:
      • The Indian Constitution allows both preventive detention and the right of protection against arrest and detention in certain cases, enshrined under Article 22 of the Constitution. 
      • However, Article 22(3) provides that the rights available to an arrested person will not be applicable in case of preventive detention, thus an exception is carved out.
      • One crucial procedural safeguard under the NSA is granted under Article 22(5), where all the detained persons have the right to make an effective representation before an independent advisory board, which consists of three members; and the board is chaired by a member who is, or has been, a judge of a high court. 
        • In a private investigation of 2021, it was found that in all the NSA cases before the Allahabad High Court in the previous three years, the  independent advisory board upheld the detention.
    • The DM who passes the detention order is protected under the Act: 
      • No prosecution or any legal proceeding can be initiated against the official who carries out the orders. Therefore, the writ of habeas corpus is the available remedy under the Constitution against the state’s power of taking people into custody under the NSA.

    Criticism against NSA

    • Violation of Article 22:
      • Human rights groups have been cliaming that the Act vitiates Article 22 of the Constitution and various provisions under the CrPC that safeguard the interest of an arrested person, namely that the arrested person should be informed regarding the ground of arrest and his right to consult a legal practitioner.
    • Not complying with CrPC:
      • Under the CrPC, the arrested person has to be produced before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours, but the NSA carves out an exception. 
    • Misused by authorities:
      • Some human rights groups argue that it is often misused by authorities to silence political opponents or those who are critical of the government. 
      • There have been calls for the Act to be repealed or amended to prevent its abuse.

    Way ahead

    • The National Security Act is certainly a necessity to protect the nation from the abuse of democratic rights by certain anti-social elements. 
    • At the same time, questions about a conflict between human rights and national security will always arise. The need is to provide a balance between the two.
    • The Act must also conform to the Constitutional spirit.

    Source: TH