National Security Act & Manipur Issue

Why in news?


A Manipuri journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha was detained for 12 months under the National Security Act for a social media post regarding Manipur Chief Minister (CM) Nongthombam Biren Singh and the Central Government.

  • The opposition, as well as Human Rights activists, criticized the detention on grounds of misuse of power and a blatant violation of his rights as a citizen.
  • Advisory Board under NSA gave its opinion that there were “sufficient grounds” to place Mr Wangkhemcha in preventive detention. Governor of Manipur Najma Heptulla confirmed the detention under the NSA.


What is National Security Act?

  • National Security Act, 1980 - It empowers the Centre/State governments to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security, relations with foreign countries, disrupting public order and for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community.
  • The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months (3 Months at a stretch). But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.

Section 124 A (Indian Penal Code) deals with Sedition as:

  1. Whoever - (Citizen/Non-Citizen)
  2. by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, (Mens Rea)
  3. brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law (Actus Rea)
  4. shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. (Punishment)
  5. The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
  6. Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence of Sedition.
  7. Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence of Sedition.

NSA vs Other Indian Penal Laws

In the normal course as under various penal laws in India, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights. These include
  1. The right to be informed of the reason for the arrest and the right to bail (Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC))
  2. Sections 56 and 76 of the Cr. PC provides that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest.
  3. Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.

But none of these rights is available to a person detained under the NSA as 

  1. A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days. (Section 8 (1) of the NS Act.)
  2. Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose. (Section 8 (2) of the NS Act.)
  3. The arrested person is also 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. (Section 11 (4) of the NS Act.)

  • Advisory Board - Article 22 (4) of the Constitution of India read with Section 9 of the NS Act provides for constitution of an Advisory Board, which consist of three persons who are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as, Judges of a High Court, and such persons shall be appointed by the appropriate Government.
  • Government within three weeks from the date of detention of a person under the order must place before the Advisory Board, the grounds on which the order has been made and the representation, if any, made by the person affected by the order.
  • The Advisory Board after considering the materials placed before it and, after calling for such further information from the Government or from any person and after hearing him in person (if it desires) submit its report to the Government within seven weeks from the date of detention of the person concerned.
  • The final order, regarding release/detention, is based on the report of the Advisory Board.

NSA in the present case

  • The NSA can be used only against those advocating armed insurrection or violent disaffection. It is debatable as to whether there was sufficient cause for detention when it seemed that the journalist posed no threat to public order or security.

  • It is also questionable whether a person can be detained under the NSA for one year at a go, as its provisions say the detention can only be for three months at a time and up to one year in total, as under Section 3 (3) Proviso of the NS Act.

Questions 

1. With reference to the National Security Act 1980, consider the following statements.

  1. It empowers the Centre/State governments to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security etc.
  2. The act denies the arrested person any right to the aid of any legal practitioner.
  3. The right to be informed of the reason for the arrest and the right to bail is not denied to the arrested person.

Mark the Correct statement/statements

  1. 2 and 3 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1 and 2 only


2. With reference to the Advisory Board constituted under Preventive Detention, consider the following statements.

  1. Advisory Board finds a mention in the Constitution of India as well as National Security Act, 2008.
  2. The Board consists of three members.
  3. Advisory Board is bound by the Code of Criminal Procedure when it acts as a quasi-judicial body for cases concerning preventive detention.

Mark the Correct statement/statements-

  1. 2 and 3 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1 and 2 only

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