The National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (the Act) was enacted with a view to constitute an investigation agency at the national level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State, friendly relations with foreign States and offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations.With time the need was felt to make this agency which was doing marvellous job across the country in prosecuting the terror related cases across the country more stronger. As a result the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the parliament which was passed by the loksabha on 15th july 2019 and rajyasabha on 17th july 2019 and is awaiting president’s assent till the time we write to you.It merely remains a formality looking at the precedents of the Indian parliamentary system. The bill provides for the national level anti-terror agency to investigate and prosecute the cases relating to terrorism on Indians and Indian properties alone which was a long standing demand of the Indian diaspora across the globe. the said amendment also enhances the jurisdiction of the agency by adding more offences under its ambit other than the scheduled offences like human trafficking, cyber crimes, human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. .The highlight of the bill remains setting up of the special courts like that of CBI which will aid in speedy conviction of the accussed. Let us discuss these three amendments made to the original act of 2008.
Enhancing the jurisdiction of NIA – The Bill gives the investigative agency the muscle to investigate scheduled offences committed beyond the geographical boundaries of India “against the Indian citizens or affecting the interest of India and Indian assets abroad.” This would be subject to international treaty or domestic law of the country in question. The agency could then be directed to register a case and investigate as if the offence were committed in India. The Special Court in New Delhi will look into those cases. This is a very significant development as this move sends out very strong message to the world that india will not let go any act of terrorism on its citizens and Indian properties anywhere in the world without prosecuting the perpetrators.This will infuse a new layer of sense of security among the Indians living and travelling abroad.
Investigation of offences other than the 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. The NIA officers investigating these crimes will have the same powers as that of any police officer investigating the same crime. This measure aimsat enhancing the national security of the country as recently it has been noticed that the terrorist organization recruited the derailed youths from within our country through social media and brainwashed them to carry out terror attacks. This law will help NIA to burst the terror module before they carry out their objectives to terrorise the nation.
Setting Up of special NIA 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. No one can forget that it took our agencies five long years to prosecute kasab “Aug. 29, 2012: The Supreme Court upholds the death sentence of Kasab.” Had there been the these special courts designated to the terror cases he could have been executed much earlier. This move may be touted as better late than never.
After this bill(Once passed in both the houses, bill needs to get assent of the president to become an act) was passed by both the houses there were concerns raised from the various quarters that this bill if beomes an act than India will turn into a police state. As it has also been observed that NIA too has sometimes failed to get the accused convicted. “The special court had acquitted all the four accused in the Samjhauta Express bomb blast case has reprimanded the National Investigation Agency (NIA) glaring discrepancy in its methodology of investigation.” hence giving them more liberty and strengthening its arm so that it can flex its muscles can lead to misuse of power. It is also important to note that the NIA reports to the home ministry and hence governments may use this for political vendetta and for votebank poltics.
The passing of such a bill indicates towards the government’s policy of zero-tolerance against terrorism. The bill is powerful enough to keep the anti-national elements under control, with the rising intolerance and the feeling of insecurity among the citizen of the nation, the passing of such a bill will restore the faith of the citizens towards the working mechanism of the State not only within the territory of India but beyond also. Furthermore, it provides that the scheduled offences should be tried in special courts which are the sessions courts, it not only facilitate the speedy investigation but also assure the conviction of the offenders.This bill further strengthens the Fundamental Rights of the citizens that is freedom of life and personal liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of part III of the Constitution of India, 1950. As the bill expands the powers of the National Investigation Agency, the working of the same should be checked regularly and should be kept under control so as to avoid any misuse of it either by the State or by the agency itself. The said Act should work keeping in mind the the federal nature of the State and should work for the betterment and towards the progression of the nation and its citizens with an objective to withhold the nature of the state that is its sovereignty, security and integrity.
Original text of the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Anshika Dwivedi is a 3rd year law student at School of Law, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University, Bhubaneswar.
Nikhil Singh Narwani is a 3rd year law student of School at Law, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University, Bhubaneshwar.
In Content Picture Credit: Vajirm IAS