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 Rajya Sabha that the legislation will not be misused.
Amit Shah defended the government for not filing an appeal against the acquittal of all four accused, including the radical right-wing’s Swami Aseemanand, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blastscase.
He said the four were 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 of NIA, saying 184 terror accused have been convicted since the BJP government came to power in 2014.
Two days after Lok Sabha passed the bill, Rajya Sabha approved it unanimously.
The bill gives powers to the NIA to probe terror attacks targeting Indians and Indian interests abroad.
The latest amendments will enable the NIA to additionally investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offenses under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Replying to Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi’s citing a special NIA Court observing that National Investigation Agency (NIA) had miserably failed to prove charges against main accused Swami Aseemanand and three others in the Samjhauta train blast case, Shah said the charge sheet in the 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 charge sheet was filed on August 9, 2012, when your (Congress) government was in power. 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 registered out of political vendetta,” he alleged. “Punishment is based on the charge sheet.”
The Home Minister said seven persons, who even the US identified as accused in the case, were arrested but to “attack terrorism with a particular religion, the culprits were let off and (the four) arrested.”
“How could they (Assemanand and three others) be punished when there was no proof,” he said. “What will judge do when there was no proof in the charge sheet?”
On the question of filing an appeal, he said, unlike the UPA where the government, prosecution agency, and the law officer were the same, in Modi government the three wings do their jobs independently.
“Appeal is not decided by the prosecution agency or the government. It is decided by the law officer. If the law office does not find evidence (in the charge sheet), if the law officer gives an opinion that there is no case for appeal, what can the government do. Our government goes by the law officers opinion and not by political opinion.”
He emphasised that the base of any case is the charge sheet and 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 on it?” he asked.
He went on to ask if those killed in the blast, their families and the acquitted do not have human rights. “The same thing happened in the Mecca Masjid blast (18th may, 2007),” he said.
Shah said since 2014, a total of 195 cases were registered by NIA, of which charge sheet was filed in 129. Of these 129, judgement has come in 44 cases. In 41 cases, culprits have been punished, he said adding in these cases “184 accused have been convicted.”
“I want to assure the House that wherever abroad Indians are harmed by a terrorist, NIA is capable of taking action,” he said. “I want to assure that the Modi government will not allow misuse of this law.”
The amendment will allow NIA to act against any harm brought to Indians or their properties on foreign soil, he said.
On the question of doing the same in Pakistan, he said the Modi government through surgical and airstrikes after the Uri and CRPF attacks has shown it can strike inside the enemy territory.
“Don’t worry about Pakistan,” he said adding there are other foreign countries which would reciprocate in dealing with terrorist acts against Indian and their properties. He appealed to the House to pass the amendment unanimously to give a united message against terrorism.
On Singhvi’s assertion that no charge sheet has been filed in 23 out of the 48 terror cases with NIA, he said the law provides for extended time for NIA to file charge sheets and there will no case where charge sheet is not filed.
At least 68 people — 43 of whom were Pakistani citizens, 10 Indian citizens, and 15 unidentified people — were killed in the blasts that took place in Diwana, near Panipat in the intervening night of February 18 and 19 in 2007.
The case was initially investigated by Haryana Police but in July 2010, the probe was handed over to NIA.
The NIA probe found that Swami Aseemanand upset over jihadi terror attacks on temples propounded the theory of “Bomb ka badla Bomb”. Aseemanand, who had confessed to the terror attack in 2011, later retracted to accuse NIA investigation team of forceful confession. The Haryana Police’s investigation blamed Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba to be behind the dastardly attack.
When Shah started to reply to the debate, members of left parties led by T K Rangarajan demanded the NIA (Amendment) Bill be sent to a Parliamentary select committee.
However, it was rejected by Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh by saying,”there is no motion for select committee.”
On this the left party members boycotted Shah’s speech. While participating in the debate, V Vijasai Reddy of YSRCP supported the bill and said that there is inordinate delay in the prosecution of terrorism related cases and special courts are needed for the purpose.
Majid Menon of NCP said there should be provision of special fast track court for all terror cases rather than a special court.
Binoy Viswam of CPI demanded a serious parliament scrutiny of the bill and said “this state cannot be a police state.
Sanjay Singh of AAP sought effective implementation 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.