Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

What is the National Security Act, 1980?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Security Act

Mains level: NSA and its provisions

Punjab Advocate General has confirmed the invocation of National Security Act (NSA) to Amritpal Singh’s case.

National Security Act, 1980

  • The NSA was passed by the Parliament in 1980 and has been amended several times since then.
  • It empowers the state to detain a person without a formal charge and without trial.
  • It is invoked when a person is taken into custody to prevent them from acting in any manner prejudicial to “the security of the state” or for “maintenance of the public order”.
  • It is an administrative order passed either by the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate.

Grounds for detention under NSA

  • NSA can be invoked to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers or the security of India.
  • Among others, it can also be applied to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supply and services essential to the community.
  • An individual can be detained without a charge for a maximum period of 12 months.
  • The detained person can be held for 10 to 12 days in special circumstances without being told the charges against them.

Protection available under the Act

  • One crucial procedural safeguard under the NSA is granted under Article 22(5).
  • All the detained persons have the right to make an effective representation before an independent advisory board.
  • The board is chaired by a member who is, or has been, a judge of a high court.
  • The DM who passes the detention order is protected under the Act and no prosecution or any legal proceeding can be initiated against the official who carries out the orders.

Cases for misuse

  • The Supreme Court in earlier cases had held that to prevent “misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed”.
  • “Meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards” has to be ensured.

Criticism of NSA

  • Human rights groups have said in the past that the Act vitiates Article 22 of the Constitution and various provisions under the CrPC that safeguard the interest of an arrested person.
  • Under the CrPC, the arrested person has to be produced before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours, but the NSA carves out an exception.
  • Some human rights groups argue that it is often misused by authorities to silence political opponents or those who are critical of the government.
  • There have been calls for the Act to be repealed or amended to prevent its abuse.
  • However, there is an opposing view that the Act cannot be construed to be a draconian law as it protects the larger interest of the state and is therefore likely to stay.

Try this MCQ:

Which of the following is a true statement about the National Security Act, 1980?

A) The Act allows preventive detention only for specific violations of the law.

B) The detained person has the right to move a bail application before a criminal court.

C) A person can be detained under the Act only if he/she has been charged with a crime.

D) The Act can be invoked to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers or the security of India.


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