A law to strengthen the anti-terror National Investigation Agency (NIA) by empowering it to investigate attacks against Indians abroad was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday after intense sparring between the government and opposition.
Home Minister Amit Shah, refuting opposition concerns about the "misuse" of the NIA (Amendment) Bill, 2019, asserted that the government would never misuse it on the basis of religion. Instead, he said, the government would ensure that terrorism is finished off irrespective of the religion of the accused.
Insisting on a division of votes, Amit Shah said: "The nation must see who supports terrorists".
Amit Shah targeted the previous Congress-led government for repealing the anti-terror Prevention of Terrorism Act or POTA, saying it was not done because of its alleged misuse but to "save its vote bank".
He said terror attacks witnessed an upsurge after POTA was scrapped, which resulted in the same UPA government setting up the NIA after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Seeking all-party support for the proposed law, Amit Shah said a division in the House would send out a wrong message and boost the morale of terrorists.
Several opposition leaders had earlier criticised the bill and accused the government of using investigating agencies for "political vendetta".
The Congress said the amended law would give sweeping powers to the NIA and was an attempt to create a police state.
"Powers to investigate outside India is a meaningless exercise. We don't have the same diplomatic clout," said Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of AIMIM.
Some MPs said the anti-terror law was misused at times to target members of a particular community. "Let me make it clear. The (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism but we will also not look at the religion of the accused while taking action," Mr Shah said.
Minister of state for Home G Kishan Reddy told the Lok Sabha that the new law would allow the NIA to investigate terror cases targeting Indians outside India.
The amendments to the NIA law will also enable the agency to investigate human trafficking, cyber terrorism, manufacture and sale of prohibited weapons and re-designate trial courts as special courts to speed up cases.
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