The National Security Act, 1980


The National Security Act was enacted by the Parliament of India on December 27, 1980. It empowers the central and state governments to keep a person under ‘preventive detention’ in certain cases.

It states that the central and state governments may detain any person to prevent them from acting in a way that is ‘prejudicial’ to India’s defence, its relations with foreign powers, or its security. They may detain a foreigner to regulate their presence in India or make arrangements to expel them from India. The central or state government may also detain a person to prevent them from acting in a way that is ‘prejudicial’ to the security of the State, the maintenance of public order and supplies and services essential to the community.

If any person does not comply with an order to be detained under this Act, they shall be imprisoned for up to one year, or be fined, or both.

The Act extends to the whole of India.


  1. Who has the power to detain a person as a preventive measure?

    The Act empowers the central and state governments to issue orders for preventive detention.

    State governments may – for a specified period – direct a district magistrate or the commissioner of police to exercise the provisions of this Act. In such instances, the officer must report to the state government about the grounds on which the order is made. The order shall remain in force for 12 days, unless the order is approved by the state government. Within seven days of approving such an order, the state government must report the grounds on which the order is made to the central government.

  2. What should be the conditions provided for the detainees?

    The appropriate government may specify the place and conditions – including the conditions of maintenance, discipline and punishment for breaches of discipline – that the person under preventive detention shall be subject to. The appropriate government may also order the detainee to be removed from one place of detention to another, within or outside a state.

  3. What is the purpose of an Advisory Board under this Act?

    The central and state governments shall constitute one or more Advisory Boards. Each such Board shall consist of persons who have been, or are qualified to be appointed as, judges of a High Court, appointed by the appropriate government.

    Within three weeks of making a detention order under this Act, the government shall specify to the Board the grounds on which the order has been made. The report of the Board – to be submitted to the appropriate government within seven weeks from the date of detention – shall specify its opinion on whether there is sufficient cause for the detention. For this, the Board shall consider the materials placed before it and call for further information as it may deem necessary.

    If the Advisory Board reports that there is sufficient cause for detaining the person, the government may confirm the order and continue such detention for a period it assesses as necessary. If the Board reports that there is insufficient cause for detention, the government shall revoke the detention order and release the person.

  4. How long can a person be detained?

    The maximum period for which any person may be detained under this Act is 12 months. The appropriate government may revoke or modify the detention order at any time.

    The government may also direct the detained person to be released for a certain period, with or without specified conditions. The government may, at any time, cancel such a release. The released person shall then surrender themselves at the time and place, and to the authority, specified by the government. If the person fails to surrender in this specific manner without a cause, they shall be punished with imprisonment for up to one year, or be fined, or both.

    Focus and Factoids by Keiu Kikas.


Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India


Government of India, New Delhi


27 Dec, 1980