The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill-2019, introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on July 8, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday amid protests by the Opposition. While the government maintained that broadening the central probe agency's investigation powers through the legislation was essential for implementing its zero-tolerance policy against terrorism, the opposition claimed that it would end up turning India into a "police state".
The proposed amendment to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act-2008 aims to provide the probe agency with powers 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 for adjudicating such crimes.
The bill also seeks to allow the NIA jurisdiction over scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and the domestic laws of other countries. A special court in New Delhi will preside over such cases.
Amit Shah sought the support of all the members of the house regardless of political affiliation during the discussion that preceded voting on the bill, stating that a division in the house would send out a wrong message and boost the morale of terrorists.
However, Congress parliamentarian Manish Tewari said 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". He also claimed that an amendment should not be made when the constitutional validity of the original NIA Act was being challenged in various courts.
AIMIM chief 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. "We should not attempt to be like America and Israel. They are not democracies in the ideal sense," he added.
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," news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
The NIA was set up in 2009 by the then United Progressive Alliance government after the Mumbai terror attacks, which claimed 166 lives. It is empowered to investigate terror cases across the country without acquiring special permission from the states.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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