NIA Bill In Lok Sabha: Government Seeks To Augment Investigative Agency; Congress & AIMIM Offer Opposition By Calling It 'unconstitutional'


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

Written By Navashree Nandini | Mumbai | Updated On:

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 the government with the Bill seeks to amend the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008, the opposition Congress, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi opposed the bill citing constitution and religion and much more. 

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.

“We want to fight terrorism with zero tolerance and have brought this bill in national interest. I pray to all of you for its passage,” he said. Reddy also said that the NIA has been doing a good work and secured conviction in over 90% of cases. It has so far registered 272 cases out of which judgment has been delivered in 52, he added.

Opposing the bill, Congress MP Manish Tewari accused the government of trying to turn India into a police state. “The NIA Bill, in 2008, came under specific circumstances after the country felt some unprecedented incidents. The constitutional validity of the NIA [National Investigation Agency] Act is not settled as of now. The Bombay High Court had upheld the constitutional validity of the act. The Jammu and Kashmir Court has not yet given its approval. In November 2013, a division bench of Gauhati High Court had spoken of the ‘illegal organisation’.” he said. Tewari also said that the probe agency are misused for political vendetta and are 'inspired media leaks'.

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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. He went on to ask if his government will extend an apology to the victims of Malegaon Blasts, in an obvious refernce to BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya who is an accused in the case. Owaisi said that the inefficiency of NIA is proved in cases like Samjhauta Blast where he said,  that the NIA was not even able to produce the CCTV footage in front of the court. He also brought in the Mecca Masjid Blast where 9 people were killeda nd asked if the intention of government is correct, why is it not appealing in these cases.

The AIMIM chief also asked that can the government show the video in which ISIS had allegedly said that Owaisi is a server of a Hindu nation. Making the debate personal, Owaisi said: "Honourable minister said that Hyderabad is a den of terrorism, so let the govt clarify am I for nation or for terrorists?" Seeking a reply from a the government, Owaisi said that the narrative has been that if accused is muslim actions will be taken, if not ,things can go on as it is. 

Home Minister Amit Shah while speaking in the house appealed to all Opposition that this bill will strengthen our agencies. He said that the bill is necessary to send a strong message to the terrorists. Meanwhile, other opposition like RSP member NK Premachandran opposed the bill and Trinamool said that the draft law has been brought 'in midst of financial business'while rejecting the bill in the Lok Sabha.

What is the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill?

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.

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What the act has, what the bill proposes?

  • 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.         

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