Libertatem Magazine

National Security Laws in India

Contents of this Page

The Parliament of India has enacted various acts and legislations to uphold the security, sovereignty, and integrity of the nation. There have been various amendments to these acts, the latest being the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act of 2019. We will now enlist and analyze the National Security laws in India.

  • Preventive Detention Act (1950 – 1969)

The law was brought into force soon after the enactment of the Constitution. The Act allowed the detention of individuals for 1 year without charge. The motive of the act was to curb the widespread violence after partition. The act could remain in existence for 2 decades only.

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act – AFSPA (1958 till date)

The much-debated law was brought in to curb the Naga separatist movement in 1958. It allows deploying police and military in areas designated as “disturbed areas.” It allowed the military to use force against the civilians on reasonable suspicion.  Section 3 of the act allows the governor of the state to impose military rule in a disturbed area.

There have been allegations of human rights violations under the garb of this law. The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the act.

  • Maintenance of Internal Security Act (1971 – 1977)

The act was seen as a replacement for the Preventive Detention Act. All the powers of the PDA now rested with MISA. MISA was grossly misused during the emergency imposed by the then PM Indira Gandhi. From politicians to trade unions, corporate opponents, and the film industry; all fell prey to MISA. MISA was repealed with the fall of the Indira Gandhi government in 1977.

  • Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act – TADA (1987 – 1995)

The act was enacted due to the Khalistani separatist insurgency in Punjab. The act enabled the government to designate terrorist-affected areas. The act gave extensive powers to the state to detain suspects, deny bail and attach their properties. 

Under this act, confessions before a police officer will be admissible in the court of law as evidence. The general practice is that confession only before the court is admissible. Ultimately, the act was repealed in 1995.

  • Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (2002 – 2004)

In the wake of the IC-814 plane hijack in 1999 and the Parliament attack in 2001, this act was brought in to bring strict anti-terror laws into place. The act enabled detaining suspects for up to 180 days by a special court. After several allegations by opposition parties, this law was finally repealed in 2004.  

  • UAPA – Unlawful Activities & Prevention Act, 1967

When UAPA was enacted, the government thought that instead of making any other legislation, it should strengthen the existing laws. The act has been amended multiple times such as in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2019.

The latest amendment of 2019 allowed the government to declare an individual a terrorist. It also provided for the seizure of property under Section 25 of the act.

  • National Security Act (1980- present date)

The act allowed state and central governments to detain any person who acts contrary to national security, public order, and essential services. Detention can be for a maximum period of 1 year. This, however, can be extended if fresh evidence is produced.

Recently, the act was invoked to arrest people who pelted stones and chased away healthcare workers in Madhya Pradesh.

  • National Investigation Agency Act (2008 & 2019 Amendment)

The NIA bill was passed after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2009. It facilitated the creation of a central agency to probe into terrorism-related issues in the country. The officers of the agency have the same powers as police officers. They can investigate offences outside India as well. Recent amendments have added cyber terrorism, counterfeiting currency, human trafficking, and the manufacture/sale of prohibited arms into the scope of offences.

Case Laws

The validity of the first PDA was questioned in A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras at the apex court which held the act as constitutionally valid barring some exceptions. Preventive detention was common in the British Era under the Realm Act.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was challenged in the case of Sri Indra Das v. State of Assam. UAPA criminalized any person who associated with a banned organization. The court held that the literal interpretation of these provisions was violative of Article 19 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has earlier tried to define the terms ‘security to state government’ or ‘security of India’ in the case of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar. The constitutionality of the National Security Act has been challenged multiple times, most notably, in A.K. Roy v. Union of India. The court upheld the constitutionality of the act. However, the court also cautioned the government with the exercise of extraordinary powers related to preventive detention.

On many occasions, the courts have quashed orders for preventive detention for various reasons. In the case of Mohammad Rafiq v. State of J&K, the order for preventive detention was cancelled on the basis of non-applicability of mind. Here, the District Magistrate had blatantly copied the report of the police to justify preventive detention.


The court has taken varying positions on national security laws in India. National security is undoubtedly paramount but it shouldn’t be misused to curb the individual rights of citizens. There should be a fine balance between the interests of citizens and the national security of the state. The innocent shouldn’t fall prey to the government under the garb of national security otherwise it will be a failed state.

About the Author