The National Security Act (NSA) is currently in the news due to its imposition in different cases in different states. The NSA has been invoked against four people in Indore who were pelting stones on health workers (Corona warriors) who came to their locality for a checkup.
Firstly, we have to understand what the NSA is and how it’s imposed on someone. The NSA came into power in 1980 under Indira Gandhi’s government and it gives power to the Central and State governments to detain any person to prevent him from acting in a manner that can harm the state’s peace and harmony or can be a threat to national security or damage India’s relations with foreign countries.
The detainee can be kept for a maximum period of 12 months, which can be extended if the government finds new evidence. Normally, every detained or arrested person has guaranteed fundamental legal rights. Under sections 56 and 76 of the CrPC and article 22(2) of the Indian Constitution, the detained person has to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of such an arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of magistrate.
But under the NSA, the concerned authority can detain any person for 5 days without any appropriate reason, and in special circumstances, this period can be extended by 10–12 days. Section 50 of the CrPC states that a person arrested should be informed about the grounds of arrest and right of bail.
According to article 22(1) of the Constitution, no person shall be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. But under the NSA, the person is not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.
No FIRs are registered under the NSA due to which the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), whose duty is to collect all crime data, has no records of the exact number of detentions.
There are so many discussions that revolve around the NSA. Some say that it’s necessary to deal with anti-social elements and some say it has some flaws and gives extra-judicial power to the government and it needs some amendments. The Act has received wide criticisms from different sections of the country. The government and police can misuse the NSA according to its need. The government has used it many times against their opposition to suppress their views against the government.
The UP government arrested and booked Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad, alias Ravan, under the NSA and later withdrew the charges after 6 months.
In a recent case, Madhya Pradesh High Court gave a judgement that an NSA detention order passed without the knowledge that the subject is already in custody is bad in law.
The NSA has been compared to the Rowlatt Act of 1919 enacted by the British government that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.