The Rajya Sabha passed a legislation to strengthen the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the country's primary anti-terror body, through a voice vote today. This development comes two days after the Lok Sabha approved the bill amid objections by the Opposition.
According to news agency PTI, the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill-2019 was passed after Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the upper house that it will be used only to combat terrorism. "I want to assure the house that the Narendra Modi government will not allow any misuse of this law," he said, dismissing the opposition's concerns that granting "overarching powers" to the NIA would turn the country into a "police state".
The legislation, first introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on July 8, aims to empower the anti-terror agency to investigate scheduled offences such as human trafficking; circulation of fake currency; manufacture and sale of prohibited arms; and cyber-terrorism. It also allows for the creation of special courts to adjudicate such crimes. Besides this, the bill seeks to provide the NIA with jurisdiction over scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and the domestic laws of other countries.
The upper house passed the legislation after negating certain amendments moved by Congress leader T Subbarami Reddy, PTI reported. Members of Left parties also walked out after their recommendation that the bill be sent to a select comittee was rejected.
As many as 278 lawmakers had voted in support of the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill-2019 in the lower house on Monday, with just six opposing it. However, a few red flags were raised too, especially by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and Congress lawmaker Manish Tewari.
Mr Tewari claimed that providing the NIA with sweeping powers on a par with any officer across the country would not be desirable at a time when probe agencies were being "misused by the centre for political vendetta". Asaduddin Owaisi, on the other hand, said it was meaningless to extend the NIA's jurisdiction over foreign countries when the government "lacks the diplomatic clout" to do so.
The Home Minister rejected the opposition's allegations of misuse, stating that the NIA would not be used for any purpose other than tackling terrorism. "Let me make this clear. The Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism," he said.
The NIA was set up in 2009 by the then United Progressive Alliance government after the Mumbai terror attacks, which claimed 166 lives.
(With inputs from Agencies)