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Government says NIA bill in national interest

The Congress terms it an attempt to turn India into a 'police state'

By PTI in New Delhi

  • Published 15.07.19, 4:19 PM
  • Updated 15.07.19, 6:23 PM
G Kishan Reddy
G Kishan Reddy (Wikipedia)

The Union government asserted on Monday that a bill to broaden the NIA’s investigating powers was part of its policy of zero-tolerance against terrorism and was in the national interest as Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the proposed legislation.

Refuting the Opposition’s claims that the NIA law had been “misused”, Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday 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.

In an intervention during a discussion in Lok Sabha on the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Shah also targeted the Congress-led UPA government for repealing the anti-terror act POTA, saying it was not done because of its alleged misuse but to “save its vote bank”.

While the minister of state for home, G. Kishan Reddy, sought the support of all parties for the passage of the bill, Manish Tewari of the Congress accused the government of trying to turn India into a “police state”.

Reddy told the House that the new law would allow the NIA to probe cases of terrorism targeting Indians and Indian assets abroad, and also empower the agency to investigate cases of arms and human trafficking, besides those linked to cyber terrorism.

“We want to fight terrorism with zero tolerance and have brought this bill in the national interest. I pray to all of you for its passage,” he said.

The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack which had claimed 166 lives.

Tewari opposed the bill, saying probe agencies are misused for “political vendetta” and “inspired media leaks” from them have turned the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.

He also claimed that the constitutional validity of the NIA Act, which led to the investigation agency’ formation, was still not settled as pleas challenging its validity were pending in various courts.

Earlier, several Opposition members, including N.K. Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget-related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that debate can start.

Reddy said the NIA had been doing good work and secured a conviction in over 90 per cent of cases. It has so far registered 272 cases, of which judgment has been delivered in 52, he added.

Appropriate punishment to the accused at times is not meted out to criminals involved in human trafficking, he said, pitching for the NIA to probe these cases.

With terrorism having international dimensions, he said it was imperative that the NIA was empowered to probe incidents of terrorism targeting Indians, Indian embassies and other assets abroad.

Tewari said India’s founding fathers had given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.

When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said.

Tewari though added that his allegation was not aimed at any particular government and was generic.

He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe.

He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.