Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: Parliament on Thursday gave its approval for the setting up of a National Investigation Agency (NIA) and strengthening the law to deal with terrorism and terrorist activities.

The government allayed fears about “misuse” of certain provisions of the Bills, saying that such measures were necessary to ensure speedy and efficient investigation and trial without violation of human rights.

Late in the evening, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the NIA Bill, 2008 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill, 2008 by voice vote after the amendments moved by the Left parties were voted on and rejected.

The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also pressed their amendments which were defeated by voice vote. Both the Bills were passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, and are set to become law.

Replying to a six-hour-long debate which saw members from the minority community express fears about the strengthened laws being misused, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said adequate care had been taken to ensure that law enforcement agencies were empowered to deal with eight acts of terrorism. At the same time, an independent authority was being set in place to review the registration and investigation of a case before prosecution “to work as a filter.”

Mr. Chidambaram said the NIA would be a “fit and lean agency” with young officers who were able. There would be special courts and cases would be tried by special judges who would complete the trials to meet the objective of speedy investigation and trial.

“The NIA is a carefully drafted Bill. The Agency will only investigate terrorist cases with inter-State and international ramifications. All other cases would be with the State governments. NIA will expect State agencies to cooperate and associate. The NIA may or may not investigate a case and may even return it to the State.”

Responding to apprehensions about the Central agency encroaching upon the rights of the State governments as expressed by Kanimozhi (DMK) and V. Maitreyan (AIADMK), the Minister asserted that the Centre would respect every State’s autonomy and had no intention of encroaching upon their rights. “More often than not, the NIA will ask the State to associate with the investigations. Provisions have been included as precaution against cases where the local police could be involved in a cover-up of a terrorist act.”

Mr. Chidambaram said the government had tried to strike a balance by providing for a maximum period of detention up to 180 days without bail as sometimes it was not possible to complete the investigation in 90 days. “This is not [the] Prevention of Terrorism Act which said that [the] arrest shall go on beyond 90 days. We have left it to the court to extend it beyond 90 days.”

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