Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has authorised Commissioner of Police Balaji Srivastava to detain people under the National Security Act till October 18, Bar and Bench reported on Saturday, citing a government notification.
The order came ahead of Independence Day and amid the farmers’ protest against the agricultural laws at Jantar Mantar. The protestors are holding a “kisan sansad” or farmers’ parliament parallel to the proceedings of the Monsoon Session of the Indian Parliament.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (3) of Section 3, read with clause (e) of Section 2 of the National Security Act, 1980, the LG is pleased to direct that during the period July 19 to October 18, the Delhi Police Commissioner may also exercise the powers of detaining authority under sub-section (2) of the Section 3 of the aforesaid Act,” the order read.
The police claimed that this was a routine order and had no connection to the farmers’ protest, according to The Times of India. The police had been granted similar powers during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act last year.
The National Security Act allows the Central or state government to order the detention of a person “with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations with foreign powers, or the security of India”. It may also order detention to prevent them from acting in any manner prejudicial “to the security of the State”, the “maintenance of public order” or the “maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community”.
The police and district magistrates have the power to issue detention orders, subject to approval by the state government within 12 days. The law stipulates that the central and state governments set up an advisory board, consisting of members who are, have been or are qualified to be judges of a High Court. This board must submit its report to the government in seven weeks and can recommend detention for up to 12 months and, in a few rare cases, two years.
Rights bodies in India have criticised the National Security Act for vaguely worded charges, procedures that subvert the due processes of law, provisions that require courts to draw “adverse inferences” against the accused, which goes against the principle of innocent until proven guilty, lack of mechanisms to prevent arbitrary or discriminatory detention, and sweeping immunities for government officials.