Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal has issued an order giving the Police Commissioner the power to detain individuals under the tough National Security Act (NSA), 1980. A notification to this effect was issued on January 10, and the order comes into effect from Sunday (January 19).
Given the daily protests in the national capital against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the order triggered apprehensions on Friday night that a crackdown was imminent.
Delhi Police officers have, however, clarified that the order is routine, and is issued periodically.
An identical order was, for example, issued on October 16, 2015, conferring the “powers of detaining authority” upon the Commissioner for the period 19.10.2015 to 18.1.2016. Najeeb Jung was L-G at the time.
Sections mentioned in the order
The January 10 notification speaks of “powers conferred by the sub-section (3) of section 3, read with clause (e) of Section 2 of the National Security Act, 1980”.
Section 3 of the Act deals with the “Power to make orders detaining certain persons”. Section 3(3) of the Act, which is mentioned in the notification, says:
“If, having regard to the circumstances prevailing or likely to prevail in any area within the local limits of the jurisdiction of a District Magistrate or a Commissioner of Police, the State Government is satisfied that it is necessary so to do, it may, by order in writing, direct, that during such period as may be specified in the order, such District Magistrate or Commissioner of Police may also, if satisfied as provided in sub-section (2), exercise the powers conferred by the said sub-section…”
This Section 3(2) of the NSA, 1980, provides for the power of detention.
It says that the central or state government may, in order to prevent any person “from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or… to the maintenance of Public order or… to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community…, make an order directing that such person be detained”.
Section 3(3) also specifies the duration for which the order can be in force.
It says that “the period specified in an order made by the State Government under this sub-section shall not, in the first instance, exceed three months”.
However, “the State Government may, if satisfied… it is necessary so to do,… extend such period from time to time by any period not exceeding three months at any one time”.
The January 10 notification mentions “the period 19/01/2020 to 18/04/2020”, i.e. three months.
The other section of the NSA Act mentioned in the January 10 notification is Section 2(e). This section clarifies that the ““state government”, in relation to a Union territory, means the administrator thereof”.
Delhi being a UT, it is as per this section that the order has been issued by the Lieutenant Governor.
The National Security Act, 1980
The NSA, which was passed by Parliament after Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, received the assent of President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy on December 27, 1980, and was notified in the official gazette.
The NSA was described as “an Act to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith”. The Act repealed the National Security Ordinance, 1980.
The Act has been widely criticised as being “draconian” because of the powers of preventive detention that it gives to the government. The detention under the NSA can extend up to 12 months — or even for longer if the government is able to produce more evidence against the detainee.
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