Seeking to give more teeth to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to allow it to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad.
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.
Defending the bill, the Government refuted opposition’s claims of “misuse” of the NIA law to target members of a community and asserted its only goal is to finish off terrorism.
In an intervention during the discussion on National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah said Parliament should speak in one voice in giving powers to the NIA to send out a message to terrorists and the world.
Some MPs said the anti-terror law is misused at times to target members of a particular community.
“Let me make it clear the Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism but we will also not look at the religion of the accused while taking action,” Shah said.
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 a federal system with NIA and it works in close coordination with states and their agencies.
He added that NIA often writes to the chief secretary and DGP of state before initiating an investigation.
He said that surgical and air strikes have shown that there are other means available with the government to deal with terrorism cases when it comes to Pakistan.
NIA is investigating as many as 272 cases and in that they have filed charge sheet in 199.
The minister said that out of 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.
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.