The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a state agency set up by the Government of India to fight terror in India. It acts as the Central Agency for the Enforcement of Law on Counter Terrorism. Without special permission from the states, the agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states. The Agency came into being on 31 December 2008 with the Parliament of India enacting the National Investigation Agency Act 2008, which was passed after the deadly 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Such an attack clearly resulted from the lack of intelligence and the failure of existing agencies in India to monitor these activities, hence the Indian government realized the need for a new body to deal with terror-related activities in India and thus created the NIA. The NIA has branches in Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kochi, Lucknow, Mumbai , Kolkata, Raipur and Jammu, with headquarters in New Delhi. It maintains a list of NIA Most Wanted.
In December 2008 Parliament passed a bill for the formation of the National Investigation Agency. According to the Bill, the NIA has concurrent jurisdiction that empowers the Central Agency to investigate terrorist attacks in any part of the country, covering offenses including challenges to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, bomb blasts, hijacking of aircraft and ships, attacks on nuclear facilities. The amendments to the NIA Act have brought infringements related to high-quality counterfeit Indian currency smuggling under the definition of a terrorist act aimed at damaging the country’s monetary stability and can therefore be investigated by the NIA.
The aim of the Agency is to be a fully professional investigative agency that meets the best international standards. It aims to set the standards of excellence at national level in counterter-terrorism and other national security related investigations by developing into a highly trained, partnership-oriented workforce. It also aims to create deterrence for current terrorist groups / individuals and potential ones. It aims to develop all terrorist related information as a storehouse.
The Agency was empowered to conduct investigations and prosecutions of offenses under the Acts specified in the Schedule of the NIA Act. A State Government may request that the Central Government hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided that the case has been registered for the offenses as set out in the schedule of the NIA Act. Also, central government can order NIA to take over any scheduled offense investigation anywhere in India. NIA officers drawn from the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service have all the rights, privileges and responsibilities police officers have in connection with any offense investigation.
Special NIA Courts
The Central Government of India has notified various Special Courts for trial of cases registered at different NIA police stations pursuant to Sections 11 and 22 of the NIA Act 2008. The Central Government agrees on every issue as to the jurisdiction of those courts. These are chaired by a judge appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the High Court chief justice with jurisdiction in that region. The Supreme Court of India was also empowered to transfer the cases from one special court to any other special court within or outside the state if the same is in the interests of justice in the light of the prevailing circumstances in any particular state. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the NIA Special Courts are allowed for prosecution of any crime with all the powers of the court of sessions.
Trials by these courts are held on a regular basis on all working days and precede the trial of any other case against the accused in any other court (not being a Special Court) and must be completed in addition to the trial of any other case. An appeal from any judgment, sentence or order of a Special Court, not being an interlocutory order, lies to the High Court on facts as well as on law. A divisional bench of two High Court Judges can hear such an appeal. There are currently 38 Separate NIA Courts. State governments were also empowered to appoint one or more of those special courts in their Member States.
The Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Amit Shah, introduced the National Investigation Agency (Amendment ) Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha on July 8 , 2019. The Bill amends the National Agency for Investigation (NIA) Act, 2008. The Act provides for the investigation and prosecution of crimes listed in a schedule by a national-level agency (scheduled offences). Furthermore, the Act requires the creation of special courts for the prosecution of scheduled offences.
• Scheduled offenses: A list of offenses to be investigated and charged by the NIA is set out in the schedule to the Act. These include offenses under Acts such as the 1962 Atomic Energy Act and the 1967 Unlawful Activity Prevention Act. The Bill seeks to enable the NIA to investigate the following offenses in addition to: I trafficking in human beings, (ii) counterfeit currency or bank notes offenses, (iii) manufacturing or selling prohibited arms, (iv) cyber-terrorism, and (v) offenses under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
• NIA jurisdiction: The Act provides for the creation of the NIA to investigate and prosecute offenses set out in the schedule. The NIA officers have the same powers to investigate these crimes across India as other police officers. Additionally, the Bill states that NIA officers will have the power to investigate scheduled offenses committed outside India, subject to other countries’ international treaties and domestic laws. The central government could order the NIA to investigate these cases, as if it had committed the offense in India. The New Delhi Special Court will have jurisdiction over those cases.
• Special Courts: The Act requires the central government to set up separate tribunals for the prosecution of scheduled crimes. The Bill amends this to state that Sessions Courts may be designated by the central government as special courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The central government is required to consult the High Court’s chief justice, under which the Court of Sessions operates, before designating it as a special court. The Senior-Most Judge will distribute cases among the courts if more than one Special Court has been designated for any area. In addition , state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as special courts for scheduled offences trials.
Author: Avi Shrivastava,
Jagran Lakecity University 1st Year