Parliament approves Bill to give NIA more teeth

Parliament approves Bill to give NIA more teeth

Parliament Wednesday approved a bill to enable the National Investigation Agency to probe "terror attacks" on Indians and Indian properties abroad, with Home Minister Amit Shah assuring the RajyaSabha that the legislation will not be misused.

Shah defended the Government for not filing an appealagainst the acquittal of all four accused, including the radical right-wing'sSwami Aseemanand, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blastscase. He said the fourwere charge-sheeted by the previous Congress government without proof.

Replying to the debate on the National Investigation Agency(Amendment) Bill, he attacked the Congress for questioning the efficiency ofNIA, saying, "184 terror accused have been convicted since the BJP governmentcame to power in 2014."

Two days after LokSabha passed the bill, RajyaSabha approvedit unanimously. The bill gives powers to the NIA to probe terror attackstargeting Indians and Indian interests abroad.

The latest amendments will enable the NIA to additionallyinvestigate offenses related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufactureor sale of prohibited arms, cyber- terrorism, and offenses under the ExplosiveSubstances Act, 1908.

Replying to Congress leader AbhishekSinghvi's citing aspecial NIA Court observing that National Investigation Agency (NIA) hadmiserably failed to prove charges against main accused Swami Aseemanand andthree others in the Samjhauta train blast case, Shah said the charge sheet inthe case was filed by the Congress government.

"Prosecution agency argues the case (in the court)based on evidence in the charge sheet… In Samjhauta blast case, the chargesheet was filed on August 9, 2012, when your (Congress) government was inpower. A second challan was field on June 12, 2013, when UPA was in power.Challan was filed with no proof (against) the accused. The case was registeredout of political vendetta," he alleged. "Punishment is based on thecharge sheet."

The Home Minister said seven persons, who even the USidentified as accused in the case, were arrested but to "attack terrorismwith a particular religion, the culprits were let off and (the four)arrested."

"How could they (Assemanand and three others) bepunished when there was no proof," he said. "What will judge do whenthere was no proof in the charge sheet?" On the question of filing anappeal, he said, unlike the UPA where the government, prosecution agency, andthe law officer were the same, in Modi government the three wings do their jobsindependently. "Appeal is not decided by the prosecution agency or thegovernment. It is decided by the law officer. If the law office does not findevidence (in the charge sheet), if the law officer gives an opinion that thereis no case for appeal, what can the government do. Our government goes by thelaw officers opinion and not by political opinion."

He emphasised that the base of any case is the charge sheetand if it is weak and without proof, it won't stand in the court of law.

"When the base is weak, how can you build a fort onit?" he asked. He went on to ask if those killed in the blast, theirfamilies and the acquitted do not have human rights. "The same thinghappened in the Mecca Masjid blast (18th may, 2007)," he said.

Shah said since 2014, a total of 195 cases were registeredby NIA, of which charge sheet was filed in 129. Of these 129, judgement hascome in 44 cases. In 41 cases, culprits have been punished, he said adding inthese cases "184 accused have been convicted."

"I want to assure the House that wherever abroadIndians are harmed by a terrorist, NIA is capable of taking action," hesaid. "I want to assure that the Modi government will not allow misuse ofthis law."

The amendment will allow NIA to act against any harm broughtto Indians or their properties on foreign soil, he said. On the question ofdoing the same in Pakistan, he said the Modi government through surgical andairstrikes after the Uri and CRPF attacks has shown it can strike inside theenemy territory.

"Don't worry about Pakistan," he said adding"there are other foreign countries which would reciprocate in dealing withterrorist acts against Indian and their properties."  On Singhvi's assertion that no charge sheethas been filed in 23 out of the 48 terror cases with NIA, he said the lawprovides for extended time for NIA to file charge sheets and there will no casewhere charge sheet is not filed.

At least 68 people — 43 of whom were Pakistani citizens, 10Indian citizens, and 15 unidentified people — were killed in the blasts thattook place in Diwana, near Panipat in the intervening night of February 18 and19 in 2007. The case was initially investigated by Haryana Police but in July2010, the probe was handed over to NIA. The NIA probe found that SwamiAseemanand upset over jihadi attacks on temples propounded the theory of"Bomb kabadla Bomb". Aseemanand, who had confessed to the terrorattack in 2011, later retracted to accuse NIA investigation team of forcefulconfession. The Haryana Police's investigation blamed Pakistan-based groupLashkar-e-Taiba to be behind the dastardly attack.

When Shah started to reply to the debate, members of leftparties led by T K Rangarajan demanded the NIA (Amendment) Bill be sent to aParliamentary select committee. However, it was rejected by Deputy ChairmanHarivansh Narayan Singh by saying,"there is no motion for selectcommittee." On this the left party members boycotted Shah's speech.

While participating in the debate, V Vijasai Reddy of YSRCPsupported the bill and said that there is inordinate delay in the prosecutionof terrorism related cases and special courts are needed for the purpose.

Majid Menon of NCP said there should be provision of specialfast track court for all terror cases rather than a special court. BinoyViswamof CPI demanded a serious parliament scrutiny of the bill and said "thisstate cannot be a police state.Sanjay Singh of AAP sought effectiveimplementation of such laws and that people should have faith in it."People should have faith that this law is not misused against them,"he said.

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