Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act

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Citation  [1]
Date assented to  3 September 1987
Enacted by  Parliament of India
Date commenced  24 May 1987
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act
Territorial extent  Whole of India including State of Jammu and Kashmir

Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, commonly known as TADA, was an anti-terrorism law which was in force between 1985 and 1995 (modified in 1987) under the background of Punjab insurgency and was applied to whole of India. It came into effect on 23 May 1985. It was renewed in 1989, 1991 and 1993 before being allowed to lapse in 1995 due to increasing unpopularity due to widespread allegations of abuse. It was the first anti-terrorism law legislated by the government to define and counter terrorist activities.


The Act's third paragraph gives a very thorough definition of "terrorism":

"Whoever with intent to overawe the Government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature in such a manner as to cause, or as is likely to cause, death of, or injuries to, any person or persons or loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property or disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community, or detains any person and threatens to kill or injure such person in order to compel the Government or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act, commits a terrorist act."


The law gave wide powers to law enforcement agencies for dealing with national terrorist and 'socially disruptive' activities. The police were not obliged to produce a detainee before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours. The accused person could be detained up to 1 year. Confessions made to police officers was admissible as evidence in the court of law, with the burden of proof being on the accused to prove his innocence. Courts were set up exclusively to hear the cases and deliver judgements pertaining to the persons accused under this Act. The trials could be held in camera with the identities of the witnesses kept hidden. Under 7A of the Act, Police officers were also empowered to attach the properties of the accused under this Act. Under this act police have no rights to give third degree or harassed anyone to speak as mentioned in the act.

Controversial provisions

The Act was widely criticised by human rights organisations as it contained provisions violating human rights. The criticism are centred on the following facts:-

  • The Act virtually criminalises free speech. Under this Act whoever advocates directly or indirectly for cession or secession in any part of India is liable to be punished under this Act.
  • The Act provided that a person can be detained up to 1 year without formal charges or trial against him.
  • Section 20 of the Act provides that detainee can be in police custody up to 60 days which increases risk of torture. Also the detainee need not be produced before a judicial magistrate, but instead may be produced before an executive magistrate who is an official of police and administrative service and is not answerable to high court.
  • The trial can be held secretly at any place and also keeps the identity of the witnesses secret violating international standards of fair trial.
  • The Act reverses the presumption of innocence of the accused under the Act. Under section 21 of the Act, the person who is accused of committing a terrorist act where arms and explosives were recovered or made confessions to someone other than a police officer or provided financial assistance for the commission of the terrorist act or by suspicion that the person has arms or explosives or financial assistance to commit the terrorist act, then the person shall be presumed to be guilty unless contrary is proved.
  • A person making confessions to a police officer not below the rank of superintendent of the police can be used as evidence against him.
  • Section 19 of the Act bars persons accused under this Act to appeal except the Supreme court.
  • Impact

    The number of people arrested under the act had exceeded 76,000, by 30 June 1994. Twenty-five percent of these cases were dropped by the police without any charges being framed. Only 35 percent of the cases were brought to trial, of which 95 percent resulted in acquittals. Less than 2 percent of those arrested were convicted. The TADA act was ultimately repealed and succeeded by the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (2002-2004) and this act was subsequently repealed after much controversy as well.

    Supreme Court ruling

    The Supreme Court has held that mere membership of a banned organisation does not make the member liable for the punishment under this Act.


    Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act Wikipedia