The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, commonly known as TADA, was a significant piece of anti-terrorism legislation enacted by the Indian government. The legislation was a pivotal law in India aimed at combating terrorism

Background and Enactment

  • Enactment and Implementation: TADA was formulated in response to escalating terrorist violence, particularly in Punjab, and its effects on other regions, including New Delhi. It was assented to on September 3, 1987, and came into force on September 24, 1987. The Act initially came into effect on May 23, 1985.
  • Modifications and Lapse: The Act was amended in 1989, 1991, and 1993 but lapsed in May 1995 due to growing unpopularity and allegations of abuse.

Provisions and Powers

  • Definition of Terrorism: The Act defined terrorism comprehensively, including actions intended to overawe the government, strike terror, or affect societal harmony using weapons, explosives, poisons, and other hazardous substances.
  • Law Enforcement Powers:
    • Detention: Law enforcement agencies could detain individuals for up to a year without being required to produce them before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours.
    • Evidence: Confessions made to police officers were admissible in court, and the burden of proof lay on the accused to prove their innocence.
    • Special Courts: Exclusive courts were set up to handle cases under TADA, with provisions for in-camera trials and protection of witness identities.
    • Property Attachment: Under section 7A, police officers were empowered to attach properties of the accused.
    • Prohibition of Third-Degree Methods: The Act explicitly mentioned that police were not allowed to use third-degree methods or harass individuals to obtain confessions.

Impact and Criticism

  • Human Rights Concerns: TADA faced severe criticism for its broad powers, which led to widespread reports of torture, arbitrary detention, and harassment of innocent people. Human rights organizations and political parties were vocal in their opposition, citing the Act’s inconsistency with international human rights laws.
  • Statistics: By June 30, 1994, over 76,000 people had been arrested under TADA. However, a significant portion of these cases (25%) were dropped without charges, and only 35% of cases went to trial. Of those, 95% resulted in acquittals, leading to a conviction rate of less than 2%.
  • Repeal and Successor: Due to its controversial nature and allegations of abuse, TADA was eventually repealed. It was succeeded by the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) in 2002, which also faced controversy and was subsequently repealed.

Repeal and Aftermath

  • Lapse: TADA was allowed to lapse in May 1995 due to its controversial nature and widespread criticism.
  • Successor Legislation: It was succeeded by the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) in 2002, which aimed to address similar concerns but also faced criticism and was subsequently repealed.


TADA was a pivotal law in India’s legislative history concerning counter-terrorism. While it aimed to address and curb terrorism, its extensive powers led to significant human rights abuses and widespread criticism, ultimately resulting in its repeal. Despite its lapse, cases initiated under TADA while it was in force continue to hold legal validity. TADA was a significant legislative effort by the Indian government to combat terrorism, but its implementation raised serious human rights concerns and faced extensive criticism. The Act’s lapse and subsequent repeal reflect ongoing challenges in balancing national security imperatives with safeguarding civil liberties and human rights.

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