NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha passed a legislation to strengthen the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the country’s primary anti-terror body, through a voice vote today. This development comes two days after the Lok Sabha approved the bill amid objections by the Opposition.The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency, which was formed in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack of 2008. According to its website, the agency functions as the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency in India.The NIA has registered and investigated 244 cases till date. Under the current Act, the NIA can investigate offences under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA).
What are the changes introduced by the Bill in the existing Act?
There are three major amendments to the original NIA Act of 2008, according to PRS Legislative Research.The first is the change in the types of offences that can be investigated by NIA.Apart from those under the Atomic Energy Act and the UAPA, the NIA, through this amendment, will be able to investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency or bank notes, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.The second change is the expansion of NIA’s jurisdiction. Officers of the agency now have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India. Shah, during his reply to the debate in Lok Sabha, had cited instances such as the recent terror attack in Sri Lanka to justify the provision.
The third change, according to PRS, refers to the special courts. While the existing Act allows the Centre to constitute special courts for NIA trials, the amendment enables the Centre to designate sessions courts as special courts for the trial of scheduled offences.