The Lok Sabha Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that will allow the investigation agency to also probe terror cases targeting Indians and Indian assets abroad.
A total of 278 members favoured for passage of the bill while six opposed it.
The bill would now go to the Rajya Sabha before being sent to the President for his approval.
The amendments will also allow the NIA to probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking.
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.
The Lok Sabha passed the amendment bill following a discussion and Home Minister Amit Shah’s reply to various concerns raised by opposition leaders pertaining to the proposed changes in the existing act.
Responding to concerns over possible misuse of the terror law, Shah assured the House that the bill was aimed only at eliminating terrorism.
The Minister added that the anti-terror law will not see the religion of people involved in terror activities and the changes in the law will effectively handle terror cases.
The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for the national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences). Further, it allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of such scheduled offences.
Once the amendments are incorporated in the law, NIA officials would have the same investigation powers in terror cases as other police officers across India. Additionally, they will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.
The Bill also allows the Central government to designate sessions courts as special courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
Replying to the discussion, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said that the government is committed to protect the country from terrorism.
“This is a government run by chowkidar and will be at the forefront for the security of the country,” he said adding terrorism has no religion or caste or region, “it’s just terrorism”.
He said that there are no issues of federal system with NIA and it works in close coordination with states and their agencies.
He added that NIA often writes to chief secretary and DGP of state before initiating an investigation.
NIA is investigating as many as 272 cases and in that they have filed charge sheet in 199. The minister said that out 272, in 51 cases the courts have already delivered their judgements and in 46 cases, people have been convicted and “there is a 90 per cent conviction rate”.
He said that the people have given the mandate to the government to protect the country from terrorism.
“We want to strengthen NIA” and it does not have any link to any religion or political party, he said.
Participating in the discussion, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari had earlier in the day accused the government of trying to turn India into a police state.
Later Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) sought division when the bill came up for passage.
Even Home Minister Amit Shah said that division should be taken up to show “who all are for or against terrorism”. While 278 members supported its consideration, only six opposed it. The bill was later passed by a voice vote.