What is the NIA Amendment Bill?

What is the NIA Amendment Bill?

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that aims to strengthen the agency while probing terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad.

The bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, on July 8, was passed by a voice vote with 278 members supporting its consideration and only six opposing it. Several Opposition leaders have raised the issue of the possible abuse, with Congress' Manish Tewari even stating that investigative agencies were misused for political vendetta.

Shah, during the discussion in the Lower House, asserted that the Narendra Modi government will never abuse it to target anyone but will ensure that terrorism is finished off irrespective of the religion of the accused.

A verbal clash between Home Minister Amit Shah and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi during the session was one of the highlights during the discussion on Monday afternoon. While Owaisi sought division when the bill came up for passage, Shah retorted by saying that division should be taken up to show "who all are for or against terrorism".

But what exactly does the NIA (Amendment) Bill, 2019 look to do? 

Expand the offences that fall within its ambit - In addition to the offences listed in the Act's schedule i.e. the scheduled offences, some of them spelled under acts like -- the Atomic Energy Act, 1962,  the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 among others -- the Act will be given the power to investigate the following offences - 

(a) human trafficking (b) offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes, (c) manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, (d) cyber-terrorism, and (e) offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

Expand the jurisdiction of the NIAThe 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."  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. 

Session Court to Special CourtUnder the amended Act, the Central Government and the State Governments can designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts to conduct trials under the Act. This will be done in consultation with the Chief Justices of the High Courts of the respective States as the Sessions Court functions under the HC. In case of more than one Special Court being designated for an area, the senior-most Judge would distribute the business among the courts. 

The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed 166 lives. Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been pushing for giving more power to the NIA to meet fresh challenges.

 

(With inputs from PTI)