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National security law by the name itself conveys, the law for the security of the Nation. However, the main objective is to safeguard national security and national interest. Moreover, India’s national security laws are not restricted to up to two or three laws, a series of laws were introduced to safeguard the security and interest of the nation. But most of these enacted laws for national security contain many unchecked and unregulated powers. Due to these individual rights get negatively affected. The object is not to debate whether there should be security laws or not? The fact is noticeably clear that for any country it is necessary to maintain its security and public order. Therefore, these laws are also known as “Exceptional Laws” or “Necessary Evils”.


The National Security Act, 1980 (hereinafter referred to as NSA) was passed on September 23, 1980, under the regime of Indira Gandhi. NSA is a reflection of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 (PDA) and Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 (MISA). NSA gives power to central and state governments to detain any person in the interest of national security and public order[1]. Under NSA, the accused could be detained without trial for 12 months[2]. However, if the government receives a new piece of evidence or fresh evidence then this duration can increase further[3].


The measures of preventive detention laws in India have come into being in the early days of the British Era. The Britishers for establishing their strong control over India used to enforce measures of preventive detention laws. After independence, India faced many instabilities such as Communal Violence, Displacement, and Internal Disturbances. Consequently, The Preventive

Detention Act was introduced and enacted by the parliament to secure the territory, Constitution, and the rights of an individual.

  • PDA- Preventive Detention Act (1950-1969): Preventive Detection Act, 1950 authorizes the government they can detain individuals without any charges for one year. Though, the main objective of the act was to curb the violence and displacement which was happening because of the partition. Initially, The PDA was enforced as temporary law which means those laws which have “Sunset Clauses” present, and when the objective of those laws was achieved the law ceases. However, the PDA expired in 1969.
  • AFSPA- Armed Forces Special Power Act (1958-till date): The act came after PDA and before MISA and is still in existence. In 1957, in Nagaland because of the separatist movement, violence was increasing and went out of control of the State Government. To reduce the increasing violence in the Northeastern States this act was passed. This act provided special powers to armed forces to maintain public order in disturbed areas.

Section- 3[4] of ASPA gives power to the government to declare any area in the country as a Disturbed area and through this, the armed forces can exercise their powers on those disturbed areas, the power also includes arrest, search and seize without a warrant.

  • MISA- Maintenance of Internal Security Act (1971-1977): Interestingly, within two years after the cease of PDA, The MISA was passed by the Government. The majority power under PDA was put in the MISA. The objective of the act was that whoever was being detained should be imposed more restrictions. During 19 months of emergency in 1975, people were put behind the bars without any trial rights and safeguards, and whoever came face to face with the government whether the opposition or civil society group was to face misuse of this act. In 1977, along with National Emergency, two more things were ended that is Indira Gandhi’s government and MISA.
  • TADA- Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (1985-1995): TADA was enacted to control separatist activities, especially terrorist activities in Punjab. The provisions under TADA were immensely powerful and they strongly override the provisions of CrPC and the Constitution. Through TADA various new offences were introduced, and the power of police was increased such as the confessions made to police by an accused were admissible in courts, and it reduced the rights and safeguards of an arrested person[5]. From 1985 to 1995, around 70,000 arrests were done and because of this using the sunset clause of the act, it ceased in 1995.
  • POTA- Prevention of Terrorism Act (2001-2004): Because of various events such as Kandahar Hijack on 24th Dec 1999, WTC Attack on 9th Nov 2001, and the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13th Dec 2001 the need to strengthen the Anti-terror law was felt and there enacted POTA, 2001. The provisions of the POTA were a reflection of TADA and because of misuse and rigid provisions, it also became inoperative by using the sunset clause of the act, in 2004[6].
  • Under Section 8[7] of the act, a person can be detained under NSA and the authority making such detention has the power not to disclose the reason for arrest for up to 5 days and in certain exceptional circumstances for up to 10 days.
  • Under Section 9[8] of the act, the central and state government shall constitute an advisory board, which consists of three members, who are or have been or are qualified to be appointed as judges of the High Court and such persons shall be designated by the appropriate government.
  • Under Section 13[9] of the act, the maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months but after finding fresh evidence the term could be extended.
  • Under Section 16[10] of the act, no suit or legal proceeding shall lie against the central government or state government, or any person for any action taken in good faith or done in pursuance of the act.
  • Under Section 50[11] of the Criminal Procedure Code, the arrested person has their basic right i.e. Right to Information.

However, Under Section 8[12] of NSA, a person can be detained for 5 days or 10 days in (exceptional conditions) without disclosing the reason for the arrest.

  • Under Section-56 and 76[13] of the Criminal Procedure Code, the arrested person has the basic right to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest. However, Under NSA, an arrested person has not as a such right.
  • Under Article 22 (1)[14] of the Constitution, the arrested person has the Constitutional right to consult a legal practitioner and to be defended by that legal practitioner. However, Under NSA, the arrested person has not as a such right.


  • No Data is Available of an arrested person under this National Security Act 1980, Surprisingly National Crime Bureau have also no records of arrested persons under the act.
  • Some authorities under the National Security Act 1980 uses Extra-Judicial Power which restrict the rights of an accused person and the government uses this as Extra-Judicial Power.
  • The National Security Act criticized for the stringent provisions which curtails the rights of the person arrested under the act and also criticized for the stringent provisions regarding the detention of citizens.
  • The wider criticism of the National Security Act is because of its misuse of power by authorities.


As the act is around forty years old and there is a need to change various provisions, to provide a safeguard against tyrannical use, as this hampers the individual right and democracy. Any laws enacted there must be kept in mind to make a balance between the security of the nation and individuals’ liberty. However, the task is difficult for the elements like individual liberty and national security, but a balanced approach must be taken.

Author(s) Name: Siya Gupta  (The ICFAI University, Dehradun)


[1] National Security Act, 1980, s 8

[2] National Security Act, 1980, s 13

[3] Ibid

[4] Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958, s 3

[5] Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, 1985, s 15

[6] Anil Kalhan, ‘Colonial Continuities: Human Rights, Terrorism and Security Laws in India’ (SSRN E-Journal, 14 march 2017) < Colonial Continuities: Human Rights, Terrorism, and Security Laws in India by Anil Kalhan :: SSRN> accessed 6 August 2022

[7] National Security Act, 1980, s 8

[8] National Security Act, 1980, s 9

[9] National Security Act,1980, s 13

[10] National Security Act, 1980, s 16

[11] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, s 50

[12] National Security Act, 1980, s 8

[13] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, s 76

[14] Constitution of India, 1950, art 21