STATE TIMES NEWSNew Delhi: Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill giving more powers to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad. The Bill amending the NIA Act, 2008, provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in the scheduled offences, was passed by Rajya Sabha with a voice vote. Further, the Act allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The bill has been already passed by the Lok Sabha on July 15. The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed 166 lives. Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been pushing for giving more powers to the NIA to meet fresh challenges. The amendments to the NIA Act will allow the agency to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad, cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking. Meanwhile, the opposition members in Rajya Sabha asked the Centre to ensure that states’ right to policing remains intact and they should be allowed to assist National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe terrorism cases. The members were participating in a discussion on the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha earlier this week. Congress member Vivek Tankha said: “NIA is a policing agency…it is facing challenges and one day there may be a situation where NIA enactment would be struck down (by court).” On states’ right to investigate cases, he said, “Despite saving clause which says the power of the state (of policing) will not be compromised, the central government in exercise of its powers has been challenging the right of the state to assist in a case…taking away cases where they (states) are already investigating.”
As per the Act, the government had to constitute special or dedicated courts for trial of cases put up by the NIA.
He also said: “One of the biggest challenges to the Act is that the power of policing under list II (with states)…except in case of Central Bureau of Investigation.
“Even the CBI (entry in list I of Central subjects) was challenged in the Assam High Court, which struck down CBI constitution (entry) as illegal. The matter is only pending in Supreme Court on the stay order. We don’t know what would happen finally to the case.”
The Bill seeks to allow the NIA to investigate offences on human trafficking, offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber- terrorism and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that NIA started as a premium counter terrorism unit and that it should stay like that and not get relegated to any other normal law enforcing agencies.
He added that despite being a premium agency, its rate of prosecution remained dismal. He cited cases like Samjhauta Express and Malegoan bomb attack cases to drive home his point.
Pointing out to the “failure” of NIA in properly investigating the Samjhauta blast case, Singhvi said even the judge in the case had said there were gaping holes in the prosecution evidence presented by the agency.
“Even with (its) such dismal prosecution rate in the country so far, you (government) want to give extra territorial powers to the NIA,” he added.
He also said the agency should not take prosecution decisions on the basis of religion.
Singhvi also pointed out various flaws in the amendment and asked the government to look into rectifying them.
He pointed out that it was wrong to attach sessions court with NIA as there were already over 2.5 crore cases pending with such courts in the country.
“These are some of the valid points…we want internal security to win, we want India to win,” Singhvi said.
K Keshava Rao (TRS), KK Ragesh (CPI-M), Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD), Narendra Jadhav (Nominated), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), Ajay Pratap Singh (BJP), Biswajit Daimary (BPF), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU) and Prasanna Acharya (BJD) participated in the discussion on the bill.
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