Parliament passes bill to give NIA more teeth

Parliament passes bill to give NIA more teeth

The amendments to the existing law allow the NIA to probe terror attacks on Indians and Indian properties abroad. PTI file photo

The NIA (Amendment) bill that provides more powers for the investigation agency got the Parliament nod with its passage in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday amid Opposition raising apprehensions about the possibility of misuse and Home Minister Amit Shah assuring no such thing will happen.

There was demand from a section of Opposition that the bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha two days ago, be sent to a Select Committee for further Parliamentary scrutiny and strengthening of the legislation but this was not done as no such notice was given by the Opposition.

The amendments to the existing law allow the NIA to probe terror attacks on Indians and Indian properties abroad. It will also allow the NIA to additionally investigate offenses related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber- terrorism, and offenses under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

In his response to the debate in the Rajya Sabha, Shah said that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government will not misuse the law as apprehended by the Opposition.

Defending the government decided not to appeal against the acquittal of four accused, including Swami Aseemanand, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blastscase, he said the chargesheet was filed during UPA regime and evidence against them could not be established before court.

He said seven persons were initially arrested.

However, he said, "A case was created to connect the blasts to a specific religion, culprits were released and new people were arrested. How could have they received punishment, there was no evidence against them."

"Prosecution agency argues the case based on evidence in the chargesheet... In Samjhauta blast case, the chargesheet was filed on 9 August, 2012, when your government was in power. A second challan was field on 12 June, 2013, when UPA was in power. Challan was filed with no proof against the accused. The case was registered out of political vendetta," he said.

On questions of efficiency of the NIA, Shah defended the agency saying the process of chargesheeting in 129 out of 195 cases registered between 2014 and 2019 were completed.

Of this, trial in 44 cases were completed and in 41 cases, 184 accused were convicted. "If Parliament does not uphold the reputation of NIA, who else will do," he said.

Though Opposition parties were not against the bill, the CPM, the CPI, the Muslim League and an independent MP walked out in protest as the government did not send the bill to a Select Committee.