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Published On: Mon, Jul 15th, 2019

NIA bill Attempt to Turn India into ‘Police State’

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amit-shah-lok-sabha-759x422NEW DELHI : A bill to give broader powers to the National Investigation Agency, India’s anti-terrorism organisation, set the stage for a stormy debate in parliament today, with Home Minister Amit Shah and Hyderabad politician Asaduddin Owaisi engaging in a bitter face-off. “You cannot scare us,” Mr Owaisi said, as Amit Shah wagged a finger at him, asking him to listen to a BJP lawmaker.
The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which gives the agency powers to probe cybercrimes, human trafficking and attacks on Indians on foreign soil, was passed by the Lok Sabha thanks to the government’s comfortable majority. It will need to be passed by the Rajya Sabha and cleared by President Ram Nath Kovind before it comes into force.
The opposition contended that the law would make India a police state and was susceptible to misuse but the government assured that such a situation would not arise. “What powers are you giving to NIA officer when you send him abroad to investigate someone? Don’t compare us to US and Israel and intrude on other people’s sovereignty… also, you cannot have such a vague definition of national interests in a bill,” Mr Owaisi said.
The government asserted on Monday that a bill to broaden the NIA’s investigating powers is part of its policy of zero-tolerance against terrorism and is in the national interest, as Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the proposed legislation.

While Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy sought the support of all parties for the passage of the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Manish Tewari of the Congress accused the government of trying to turn India into a “police state”.

Reddy told the House that the new law will allow the NIA to probe cases of terrorism targeting Indians and Indian assets abroad, and also empower the agency to investigate cases of arms and human trafficking besides those linked to cyber terrorism.”We want to fight terrorism with zero tolerance and have brought this bill in the national interest. I pray to all of you for its passage,” he said.

The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack which had claimed 166 lives Tewari opposed the bill, saying probe agencies are misused for “political vendetta” and “inspired media leaks” from them have turned the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.
He also claimed that the constitutional validity of the NIA Act, which led to the investigation agency’s formation, is still not settled as pleas challenging its validity are pending in different courts.

Earlier, several opposition members, including N K Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget- related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that a debate can start.

Reddy said the NIA has been doing a good work and secured conviction in over 90 per cent of cases. It has so far registered 272 cases out of which judgement has been delivered in 52, he added.

Appropriate punishment to the accused at times is not meted out to criminals involved in human trafficking, he said, pitching for the NIA to probe these cases. With terrorism having international dimensions, he said it is imperative that the NIA is empowered to probe incidents of terrorism targeting Indians, the Indian embassy and other assets abroad.
Tewari said India’s founding fathers have given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.
When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said. Tewari though added that his allegation is not aimed at any particular government and is generic.

He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe. He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state, and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.
Objecting to his claim, Mr Owaisi, a lawmaker from Hyderabad, demanded that that the BJP leader provide proof. At this, Mr Shah got up from his seat and asked him to stop interrupting. “Mr Owaisi and everybody’s secularism has burst out… we listened patiently when they all were speaking. Learn to listen Owaisi sahab. It can’t go on like this. You have to listen,” the BJP chief said, wagging his finger at the leader.
An agitated Mr Owaisi asked Mr Shah to not point a finger at him and said he cannot be frightened. The BJP chief countered: “When you have fear in your mind then what can I do.” Mr Shah also targeted the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government for repealing the anti-terror act POTA, saying it was not done because of its alleged misuse but to “save its vote bank”.

He said there was a dramatic spurt in terror attacks after the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed resulting in the same UPA government being forced to constitute NIA after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. (With Agency Inputs ).

 

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