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On Saturday night, the Government of Rajasthan enforced the National Security Act in eleven of its districts. Most of the news reporters have talked about its imposition but none about its implications. One needs to understand that the Act is basically a ‘preventive detention’ act, one of the greatest legitimate ills in our country. I use the word legitimate because it is a violation that is given sanction to in the Constitution of our country.
The National Security Act, 1980 was imposed under Section 3 (2) which says that if the State government is satisfied that with respect to any person that with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of Public order, it may impose the Act. In the case of Rajasthan, it was imposed to supposedly prevent the clash between the Gujjars and the Meenas.
But the point is, was the imposition of such a harsh legislation really required? Earlier the District Commissioner of Bharatpur imposed section 144 of the Cr. PC (Prohibition of an Act to prevent public order etc…). Apparently the situation was brought under control in the said district. Our governments have this knack of bringing in the harshest legislations without any understanding of its implications to personal liberty. Such actions more or less have stood the test of time and cannot even be challenged in Court. When there were other options available, then why did the Rajasthan government bring in the NSA? In SR Bommai v. Union of India, the Court held that introduction of emergency powers under the Constitution can be questioned in the Court. The same reasoning should be applied to the NSA.
Preventive Detention in India has unfortunately stood the test of time and its going to be extremely difficult for it to be repealed now. In AK Gopalan’s case, the Court justified preventive detention in the name of maintaining public order. This was later upheld in ADM Jabalpur v. Sivakant Shukla where the Maintenance of the Industrial Security Act (MISA) was upheld. But the point again to be understood is that ‘preventive detention’ under the Constitution was meant to be for the protection of the State and not against some actions ensued by caste wars. The Gujjars and the Meenas may fight, but that doesn’t mandate preventive detention. Executive action without any checks and balances is a toll for destruction of the democratic order. Unbridled powers leads to abuse that violate the very ethos within which they are framed.
I am however given to understand that there have not been many arrests under the NSA in Rajasthan. The gujjars are destroying state property in the State of Rajasthan. Perhaps starting curfews and imposing laws like Section 144 of the code of criminal procedure would have helped more than imposing preventive detention law.
There is a meeting of the Gujjar leaders with the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje tonight. Hope the meeting ends amicably and the fighting can come to an end.