The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019 after a division as Home Minister Amit Shah sought a vote on the legislation. Speaker Om Birla said the bill had been passed with 278 members voting in its favour and six against it.
On July 15, a fierce debate commenced in the Parliament on the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill that was introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah on July 8, 2019. While Home Minister reiterated the stand of the government as zero tolerant, Owaisi raised questions on various NIA probe. Speaking in the lower house, Misister of State G Kishan Reddy told the House that the new law will allow the NIA to probe cases of terrorism targeting Indians and Indian assets abroad, and also empower the agency to investigate cases of arms and human trafficking besides those linked to cyber terrorism.
Opposing the bill, Congress MP Manish Tewari accused the government of trying to turn India into a police state. Expressing his opposition to the bill, AIMIM chief said that various parts of the bill violates Article 14 - right to equality. Raising question on the NIA, he asked if the NIA has particular investigative techniques and has a legislative order to undertake them.
The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack which had claimed 166 lives. The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill proposes to amend the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008. The Act provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences). Further, the Act allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
Scheduled offences: The schedule to the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA. These include offences under Acts such as the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. The Bill seeks to allow the NIA to investigate the following offences, in addition: (i) human trafficking, (ii) offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes, (iii) manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, (iv) cyber-terrorism, and (v) offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Jurisdiction of the NIA: The Act provides for the creation of the NIA to investigate and prosecute offences specified in the schedule. The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to investigation of such offences, across India. The Bill states that in addition, officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries. The central government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases, as if the offence has been committed in India. The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.
Special Courts: The Act allows the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The Bill amends this to state that the central government may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The central government is required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning, before designating it as a Special Court. When more than one Special Court has been designated for any area, the senior-most judge will distribute cases among the courts. Further, state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.