Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Preventive Detention


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 22

Mains level : Issues with preventive detentions

Preventive detentions in 2021 up by 23.7% compared to year before - The  Hindu

Preventive detentions in 2021 saw a rise by over 23.7% compared with the year before, with over 1.1 lakh people being placed under preventive detention, according to statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

What does NCRB report say on Preventive Detention?

  • Over 24,500 people placed under preventive detention were either in custody or still detained as of 2021-end — the highest since 2017 when the NCRB started recording this data.
  • Over 483 were detentions under the National Security Act, of which almost half (241) were either in custody or still detained as of 2021-end.
  • In 2017, the NCRB’s Crime in India report found that 67,084 persons had been detained as a preventive measure that year.
  • Of these, 48,815 were released between one and six months of their detention and 18,269 were either in custody or still in preventive detention as of the end of the year.

Various provisions invoked for Preventive Detention

  • Among other laws under which the NCRB has recorded data on preventive detentions are the:
  1. Goonda Act (State and Central) (29,306),
  2. Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (1,331), and
  3. A category classified as “Other Detention Acts”, under which most of the detentions were registered (79,514).
  • Since 2017, the highest number of persons to be placed under preventive detention has consistently been under the “Other Detention Acts” category.

Concerns over the report

  • The number of persons placed under detention has been increasing since 2017 — to over 98,700 in 2018 and over 1.06 lakh in 2019 — before dipping to 89,405 in 2020 (due to lockdowns).
  • The number of persons placed under preventive detention has seen an increase in 2021.

What is Preventive Detention?

  • Preventive detention means detaining a person so that to prevent that person from commenting on any possible crime.
  • In other words, preventive detention is an action taken by the administration on the grounds of the suspicion that some wrong actions may be done by the person concerned which will be prejudicial to the state.

Preventive Detention in India

A police officer can arrest an individual without orders from a Magistrate and without any warrant if he gets any information that such an individual can commit any offense.

  • Preventive Detention Law, 1950: According to this law any person could be arrested and detained if his freedom would endanger the security of the country, foreign relations, public interests, or otherwise necessary for the country.
  • Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1968: Within the ambit of UAPA law the Indian State could declare any organization illegal and could imprison anyone for interrogation if the said organization or person critiqued/questioned Indian sovereignty territorially.

What is the difference between Preventive Detention and an Arrest?

  • An ‘arrest’ is done when a person is charged with a crime.
  • In the case of preventive detention, a person is detained as he/she is simply restricted from doing something that might deteriorate the law-and-order situation.
  • Article 22 of the Indian Constitution provides protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.

Rights of an Arrested Person in India

A/c to Article 22(1) and 22(2) of the Indian constitution:

  • A person cannot be arrested and detained without being informed why he is being arrested.
  • A person who is arrested cannot be denied to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. This means that the arrested person has right to hire a legal practitioner to defend himself/ herself.
  • Every person who has been arrested would be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours.
  • The custody of the detained person cannot be beyond the said period by the authority of magistrate.

Exceptions for Preventive Detention

Article 22(3) says that the above safeguards are not available to the following:

  • If the person is at the time being an enemy alien
  • If the person is arrested under certain law made for the purpose of “Preventive Detention”

Constitutional provision

  • It is extraordinary that the framers of the Indian Constitution, who suffered most because of the Preventive Detention Laws, did not hesitate to give Constitutional sanctity.
  • B.R. Ambedkar was of the opinion that the freedom of the individual should not supersede the interests of the state.
  • He had also stated that the independence of the country was in a state of inflancy and in order to save it, preventive detention was essential.

Issues with preventive detention

  • Arbitrariness: The police determinations of whether a person poses a threat are not tested at a trial by leading evidence or examined by legally trained persons.
  • Rights violation: Quiet often, there is no trial (upto 3 months), no periodic review, and no legal assistance for the detained person.
  • Abuse: It does not provide any procedural protections such as to reduce detainees’ vulnerability to torture and discriminatory treatment, and to prevent officials’ misusing preventive detention for subversive activities.
  • Tool for suppression: In the absence of proper safeguards, preventive detention has been misused, particularly against the Dalits and the minorities.

What has the apex court recently rule?

  • Preventive detention is a necessary evil only to prevent public disorder, ruled the Supreme Court in 2021.
  • The State should not arbitrarily resort to “preventive detention” to deal with all sundry “law and order” problems, which could be dealt with by the ordinary laws of the country.
  • Whenever an order under a preventive detention law is challenged, one of the questions the court must ask in deciding its legality is: was the ordinary law of the land sufficient to deal with the situation?
  • If the answer is in the affirmative, the detention order will be illegal.

Upholding the Article 21

  • Preventive detention must fall within the four corners of Article 21 (due process of law) read with Article 22 (safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention) and the statute in question, Justice Nariman ruled.
  • The Liberty of a citizen is a most important right won by our forefathers after long, historical, and arduous struggles.

Way forward

  • Having such kind of acts has a restraining influence on the anti-social and subversive elements.
  • India is a large country and many separatist tendencies against the national security and integrity existed and existing and a strict law is required to counter the subversive activities.
  • The number of persons detained in these acts is not a very large and due attention is made before preventive detention.
  • The state should have very effective powers to deal with the acts in which the citizens involve in hostile activities, espionage, coercion, terrorism, etc.


UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥FREE for 24 Hours Prelims Notes
This is default text for notification bar