3rd Year, 5th Semester
CMR School of Legal Studies
The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) was a highly controversial act passed by the Indian parliament to tackle the civil and political unrest in the country as well as other threats like terrorism, international sabotage, deceit, etc. The act gave Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s administration and Indian law enforcement agencies expansive authority that included unbounded detention without trial, search and confiscation of property without warrants, and phone tapping. During the national emergency from 1975–1977, the law was changed multiple times and was used to suppress political disagreement. It was harshly misused. When Indira Gandhi lost the 1977 Lok Sabha election and the Janata Party took office, the act was finally repealed.
MISA was a type of National Security Law which was introduced in 1971 by the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi after the expiration of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) in 1969.PDA was established in 1950 and was independent India’s first preventive detention law. The powers granted to the government under MISA were very similar to the PDA.
Various types of National Security Laws have been introduced by the Government from time to time in order to maintain the country’s sovereignty, security, and integrity. A few of these (excluding MISA) are -Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, Preventive Detention Act, Armed Forces(Special Powers) Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, National Security Act, etc.
MISA was replaced by the still applicable National Security Act that allows the central or state government to arrest a person up to 12 months (which can be extended even further if the government finds new evidence) in order to prevent him from engaging in a way that might jeopardize national security or upset public peace or to ensure the community’s basic goods and services are maintained.
When PDA was implemented in 1950, it was eventually put into effect for a period of 1 year, but was stretched until 31st December, 1969. MISA was enacted on 2nd July, 1971, and was based on PDA.
A ton of innocent civilians were suspected to have been unreasonably detained, tormented, and there were also reports of forceful sterilization in some cases as a direct consequence of the law’s lack of consideration for legal and constitutional protective measures of human rights, particularly when the government tried to disrupt the opposition and also during the national emergency era.Another primary reason behind the enactment of this act was justification of imprisonment and detainment of the political competition (which at that time was the Janata Party) of Indira Gandhi’s government. Those who were arrested under this law included the opposition party’s leaders, workers and activists. Throughout the 2-year national emergency period, more than 1,00,000 civilians which included reporters, journalists, politicians, scholars, activists, protesters, etc. were imprisoned without the option of going to trial for a period which could extend up to 18 months. Some people had even gone to jail for speaking out against forceful sterilization or the removal of slums that had been ordered by the government.
Under the 39th amendment of the Indian Constitution, MISA was included in the 9th Schedule, which gave it complete immunity from any legal challenge or judicial scrutiny, even if it was found to be violating the fundamental rights that had been guaranteed under the constitution or the Basic Structure.Following the Lok Sabha election in 1977 which resulted in Janta Party emerging as winners and forming the government, that act was finally repealed.MISA was subsequently removed from the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution by the 44th Amendment Act of 1978.However, other acts or laws that were enacted forcefully on 13th December, 1974 such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA), the Essential Services Maintenance Act of 1968 (ESMA), and the financial equivalent of the act, the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA), to prevent smuggling and black-marketing in foreign exchange, are still in effect.Other problematic successors to MISA include the National Security Act (1980), the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA, 1985–1995), and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA, 2002). These legislations were condemned for allowing broad authority to combat domestic and cross-border terrorism and political violence while leaving civil liberties unprotected.
After the annulment of the act, it was announced that the civilians arrested under MISA during would be given a monthly stipend as compensation for their sufferings with the amount depending on the state they belong to. The governments however have not been okay with this scheme and have several times tried to discontinue it.
The Rajasthan Government in 2019 decided to stop paying the allowance to pensioners and labelled them as “rule breakers” and stated that it is an insult to the real freedom fighters if the detainees are given the same status and respect as them. When the decision sparked outrage in the state, the state government responded by stating that the pension had not been terminated, but that physical verification of claimants had been demanded. In Madhya Pradesh, The Congress government, which took office in 2018, opted to end the pension system, citing huge irregularities in pension payments. The administration stated that the pension would be reinstated once the physical verification of the pensioners was completed. After the pension was not resumed for about a year, 15 pensioners knocked on the door of the Madhya Pradesh high court, pleading for the court to intervene. The high court, in response to petitions, ordered the government to reinstate the pensions within a month and asked them to provide a valid reason in case they failed to do so. When the state government of Chhattisgarh intended to abolish the pension scheme in 2019, around 70beneficiaries filed a lawsuit in the High Court opposing the government’s decision. After hearing both sides, the High Court deemed the state government’s decision to cancel the MISA pension programme for detainees to be illegal and invalidated it.
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THE HINDU, What is National Security Act? – The Hindu, last visited 19th January, 2022
DAILY O, MISA, Emergency, forced sterilisations: Why is Priyanka Gandhi resembling Indira Gandhi a good thing? (dailyo.in), last visited 19th January, 2022
INDIA, Emergency in India during 1975: Atrocities and Acts during Emergency – India.com, last visited 19th January, 2022
OPINDIA, Rajasthan govt stops the pension for MISA prisoners of emergency (opindia.com), last visited 27th January, 2022
NEWS18, MP High Court Reverses State Govt Order of Revoking Pension of MISA Detainees (news18.com), last visited 27th January, 2022
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, HC quashes Chhattisgarh government’s decision to abolish pension scheme for MISA detainees- The New Indian Express, last visited 27th January, 2022