Feb 23, 2022

What is the National Security Act and why does it matter?

In reference to the National Security Act, the Allahabad High Court has said that if a law gives the Government extraordinary power to detain a person without applying ordinary law and trial by courts, such a law should be strictly interpreted and implemented with extreme care. 


What is the National Security Act?

The National Security Act, 1980 (NSA) is a law that provides for preventive detention of people in certain cases. Under Section 3 of the NSA, the Central/State Government has the power to order any person’s detention and detain them if it thinks it is necessary to prevent them from harming: 


  • national defence; 
  • relationship with foreign countries; 
  • national security;
  • public order;
  • essential supplies and services.


Validity of a detention order

A detention order cannot be invalidated or inoperative just because the reason(s) for the order are vague, non-existent, irrelevant, or unconnected with the detained person. It does not matter even if the person/place of detention is outside the territorial jurisdiction of the concerned Government. 


Effect of a detention order

Every person for whom a detention order is made can be detained in a place under certain conditions as specified by the Government, such as conditions related to discipline and punishment for breaches of discipline. The person can also be removed from one place of detention and taken to another place of detention.


Duties of the authority making the order

When a person is detained, the authority passing the detention order should tell them the reasons for the order, usually within five days from the date of detention. In exceptional circumstances, the authority can extend this to fifteen days after giving written reasons for the delay. The authority should also give the person the earliest opportunity of making submissions against the order to the Government. 


The Advisory Board’s role

Within three weeks of detaining a person, the Government should inform the concerned Advisory Board of the reasons for the detention order and any submissions made by the detained person.


If the Advisory Board reports that there is sufficient reason for the detention, the Government may confirm the detention order and continue the detention of the person. The maximum period of detention is twelve months from the date of detention.


If the Board reports that there is no sufficient reason for the detention, the Government will cancel the detention order and release the person.