Clearing off all the hurdles, NIA bill passed by both houses now awaits Prez Kovind’s assent

Clearing the hurdles mounted on the path of passing the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Bill, India gave a major thrust to its national security as the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday unanimously passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Although it was not an easy task as Home Minister Amit Shah hit back at the opposition parties who have questioned the NDA government’s bid to expand the jurisdiction of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and strengthen the probe agency.

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Unlike Lok Sabha, the bill’s uncontested passage in the Upper House marked a sharp change from that of the lower house. The discussion in the Lok Sabha triggered questions by as the government and the Opposition sparred over the validity of the proposed amendments in the bill and how far the proposed law will be able to check terrorism. Eventually, there were six voices of dissent in the Lok Sabha, and none in the Rajya Sabha.

While Opposition parties raised doubts over the possible misuse of the bill, Union home minister Amit Shah told the Rajya Sabha, “I assure the House that the bill will not be misused under any circumstances. If the country does not vouch for the efficiency of the NIA, how will it hold any standing globally? Both Houses need to prove to the world and the terrorists that we are united in this fight.”

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Shah added that the proposed amendments would further empower the country to fight terror as was evident in the fact that out of the 195 cases with the agency since 2014, chargesheets had been filed in 129 cases, with 41 convictions.

As passed by both the houses, the bill now awaits President Ramnath Kovind’s nod.

The NIA was set up in 2009 following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which killed 166 people. The bill proposes three major amendments to the NIA Bill of 2008. The first focuses on providing the NIA with more teeth to investigate cases pertaining to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

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The bill also seeks to expand the agency’s jurisdiction to investigate offences committed outside India, such as the Easter day bombings in Sri Lanka. Finally, it proposes to allow the central government to constitute special courts for NIA trials.


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