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The Evolution of the National Security Act: A Historical Overview

Written by - Kishan Chopda



How has the National Security Act evolved over time in response to changing security threats in India?


The National Security Act (NSA) is a law enacted by the government of India in 1980 to regulate national security and public policy. It allows central and state governments to arrest individuals deemed to pose a threat to national or public security. The draft law was criticized for its broad and vague definitions of "national security" and "public order" that could be used to prevent conflict.


A series of laws were introduced whose main objective was to safeguard National security & National interest But the majority of these laws are given many unchecked & unregulated powers due to which the rights of the citizens to get negatively affected. The Fact is clear that for any Country it is necessary to maintain its security & Public order as well that's why these laws are also called exceptional laws or necessary evils. For protecting of securing the Rights of the Indian citizens we were drafting a constitution soon after the independence But Parallel one powerful law was also in making which abolishes the Rights of the citizens.


I am saying about the Preventive Detention Act, of 1950. This bill will be presented by the Deputy Prime Minister of India in the Indian parliament. Sardar Vallab bhai Patel said that “I have spent many nights thinking about this bill”. This act is the main objective during partition time taking some violence and displacement to be controlled. It’s a Temporary law that means "sunset clause" Present in it Those laws are developed into specific problems to be solved. This act achieved its objective; therefore, it gets lapsed. The preventive detention Act bill presented in the parliament government said it’s one to two years this law must be Renew This law come to lapse in 1969.


The two things popular in 1975–1977 were firstly the National Emergency and, secondly, the Maintenance of the Internal Security Act (1971–1977). An interesting preventive detention act has lapsed since 1969, and after two years, MISA was enacted by the government in 1971. These acts are motivated by the desire to detain individuals, impose more restrictions during national emergencies, and misuse MISA against the opposition. Civilians opposed the emergency There were two major events in the 1977 General Election: Indira Gandhi's defeat and the act’s lapse. In this act, a specific landmark case dealt with constitutional validity. This case was held that in times of emergencies, that case is ADM JABALPUR V. SHIVKANT SHUKLA (1976).(1)


There are specific acts that come from PDA and before MISA. Its Armed Forces Special Power Act of 1988 is also active. In the year 1958, the Nagaland separatist movement's violence increased, and people were out of control at the hands of the state government. This act is presented in Parliament as a newly enacted act, the ASFPA Act, to control increased violence in the Northern States, and some activities will be discontinued in the future. This Act grants power to the armed forces in the disturbed area to maintain public order. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 gives power in Section 3 to the government to take action against rebellion by armed forces furthermore, this Act is also effective at present in parts of India.


Then comes National Security in 1980. There is a reflection of PDA & MISA In the time of lockdown at Corona at timing in April. Four people gut arrested under NSA charges. They were caught to spread anti elements about the lockdown. This act prevents future crime. To return or contain in order to prevent future crimes.


The NSA Act gives power to central and state government security agencies and maintains public order by detaining individuals who threaten the security of the state or national interest. The National Security Act of 1980 The maximum confinement is twelve months. But if the government receives new pieces of evidence or gets some fresh evidence, then the confinement period increases. They have not been granted the basic right to be informed. They are not given legal aid. This has criticized this act because it says arrest or detain, but their data is not available. Surprisingly, there is no data available from the National Crime Report Bureau on how many people are arrested or detained under this Act.


The National Security Act of 1980 in this act particular case is not in the light or is not a landmark judgment about NSA, but in this case, some changes in NSA that case is:

People's Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India (1982)3 SCC 235 (2)

This case pertains to the constitutional validity of the National Security Act, of 1980, which empowers the government to detain persons without trial for a maximum period of one year if it is satisfied that such detention is necessary for national security or public order.

In this case, the Supreme Court of India held that preventive detention under the National Security Act would be unconstitutional if it violated the fundamental rights of the detainee under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India. The Court also laid down guidelines to be followed by the authorities while exercising the power of preventive detention under the Act, to ensure that the detention is not arbitrary or violative of the Constitution.


There are a number of acts that are seen, but there is also one particular act related to the NSA. There is a TADA Act. This Act helps to control separatist activities, especially terrorist activities in Punjab, J&K, and eastern states.


This particular act has immense power to not be seen or heard. It possesses powerful laws. This act is strong enough in terms of CrPC and the Constitution; their provisions are overridden, and this act must be supreme in terms of the Constitution. There is a new section that gives the most powers to the police under this Act and reduces safeguards for the people.


Under TADA, the person gives a confession in front of the police. That is evidence admissible in court. As a result, the reasons for abuse and torture have increased on the police side. Therefore, this act was misused. Therefore, the allegation is now in the public domain. Therefore, the use of a sunset clause in this act lapsed in the year 1996.

Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab (1994) 3 SCC 569. (3)

In this case, the Supreme Court of India examined the constitutional validity of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), which allowed the government to detain individuals for up to two years without trial for terrorist activities. The court held that the detention of individuals under TADA and similar laws, such as the National Security Act (NSA), must be based on specific and relevant material, and the government must follow due process of law to avoid misuse of the law. The court also laid down guidelines to prevent arbitrary detention and ensure that the rights of the detainees are protected.


From 1985 to 1995, this act resulted in the arrest of 70,000 people under the TADA Act. Important events include the 24th December 1999 Kandahar Hijack', the 9/11/2001 World Trade Centre Attack, and the 13th December 2001 Indian Parliamentary Attack. These two events are taking place, which is why anti-terror laws must be strengthened. There comes Parliament with the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This Act subjects any person arrested as a suspect to a 180-day (six-month) detention period. There is a problem with this act. These Act objectives are similar to the TADA. The objective of TADA It’s the power to the hand police; the confession recorded by the police is admissible in court. There were reduced rights to know and reduced safeguards given by the constitution. As a result, the allegation that some political parties and vendettas have been fulfilled has an impact on this act. Therefore, this act of power is misused. That’s why this allegation is increased, and that's why the use of the 'sunset clause' and this Act lapsed in the year 2004.


There are six laws to safeguard national security, but five of them lapse due to the use of a sunset clause. NSA is also effective at the present time. Recently, the NSA, also known as Rasuka, has been involved in various cases in different states of India. There are many offenders arrested under the law for attacking Corona warriors, i.e., doctors, nurses, housekeeping staff, and security personnel.


In 2019, the government of India made major changes to the NSA by amending the law. This amendment allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists and also expands the law to include activities related to cybercrime, bioterrorism, and nuclear terrorism.

The amendment also makes it easier for the government to detain people longer without going to court. Since the Amendment, there has been a heated debate about its impact on civil liberties and human rights. Some legal and human rights experts criticized the changes, saying they gave the government too much power and undermined the due process and fair trial.


In summary, although I cannot provide a legally up-to-date look at the Indian NSA reform, the changes in the 2019 law have been controversial and there are a lot of controversies.

"The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World": S. Jaishankar, who served as India's Foreign Secretary and later as the Minister of External Affairs, does not discuss the specific National Security Act of India (NSA) in detail. However, he has addressed broader national security issues and the challenges India faces in protecting its interests.


Jaishankar highlighted India's need to provide comprehensive and integrated national security, which includes not only military readiness but also economic capabilities, technology, and politics. He believes India should be supported in establishing its creative space and forging partnerships with like-minded countries to deal with threats.


"India's National Security: A Critical Appraisal" This is a book edited by Ashok K. Behuria that offers a critical analysis of India's national security policies and challenges. This book covers a wide range of topics including security issues in the context of India's strategic environment, security issues, and the role of various stakeholders in India's national security.

One of the topics discussed in this book is the National Security Act (NSA). The NSA is an Indian law, first enacted in 1980, which gives the central and state governments the power to arrest individuals seen as a threat to national security. The law is controversial, with critics saying that authorities routinely arbitrarily use the law and restrict civil liberties.

This book provides a critical assessment, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the NSA. He noted that although the law can be an effective tool in dealing with threats to national security, it can be abused by the police. The book argues that there must be a balance between national security concerns and individual rights and freedoms.


Overall, "India's National Security: A Critical Analysis" provides a comprehensive overview of India's national security issues and policies. It provides insight into the complex challenges facing India's security institutions and provides an unbiased understanding of the many factors influencing India's national security policy.


Reference Books


• "The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World," S. Jaishankar. • "India's National Security: A Critical Appraisal" by Ashok K. Behuria. • “Case law references are taken by Indian Kanoon”.

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