New Delhi: Jul 17 (PTI) Opposition members in Rajya Sabha Wednesday asked the Centre to ensure that states' right to policing remains intact and they should be allowed to assist National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe terrorism cases.
The members were participating in a discussion on the The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha earlier this week. Congress member Vivek Tankha said: "NIA is a policing agency...it is facing challenges and one day there may be a situation where NIA enactment would be struck down (by court)."
On states' right to investigate cases, he said, "Despite saving clause which says the power of the state (of policing) will not be compromised, the central government in exercise of its powers has been challenging the right of the state to assist in a case...taking away cases where they (states) are already investigating."
He further said,"This was not the intent of the NIA. It was that in the spirit of federality and cordiality in important matters where nation looks to good investigation, the expert body would investigate and states would assist."
Tankha opined:"You may have the best of Act, good intention, pious motives but if the implementation of the Act in this country is not in the spirit of federalism and cordiality, then certainly implementation is going to suffer."
He also pointed out that the amendment which provides for designating a judge for trial of cases put by NIA would put additional burden on the judiciary. As per the Act, the government had to constitute special or dedicated courts for trial of cases put up by the NIA.
He also said: "One of the biggest challenges to the Act is that the power of policing under list II (with states)...except in case of Central Bureau of Investigation.
"Even the CBI (entry in list I of Central subjects) was challenged in the Assam High Court, which struck down CBI constitution (entry) as illegal. The matter is only pending in Supreme Court on the stay order. We don't know what would happen finally to the case."
TMC leader Derek O'Brien also echoed similar views and said, "Under section 6, state power is bypassed. The issue of federalism is a cause of concern. If human trafficking and cyber crimes goes in central list, then there is big chance of conflict. Then cyber crime can become cyber terrorism and states' right could be used."
He further said, "Political rivals say you have the ally of CBI, ED and IT. So this (NIA) must not be another ally. The NIA should do its job and not become National Interference Agency."
On Pakistan's take on this amendment in the Act which allows NIA to investigate beyond international borders, he said, "Will Pakistan sign the treaty. Will Pakistan give us jurisdiction. How have we gone on Pakistan."
In a ligther vein he said, "We went to have vegetable biryani on a birthday. We allowed five member investigation team to come to Pathankot. Then they went back and said all fault was yours. If we want to fight terror then we would have to address the Pakistan issue. What is the view of this government on Pakistan?"
He recalled that,"Home Minister (Amit Shah) said (earlier this week) said that that TADA and POTA were not repealed because of misuse, but to save a vote bank." The bill was moved by Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy in the House for consideration and passage.
The Bill seeks to allow the NIA to investigate offences on human trafficking, offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that NIA started as a premium counter terrorism unit and that it should stay like that and not get relegated to any other
normal law enforcing agencies.
He added that despite being a premium agency, its rate of prosecution remained dismal. He cited cases like Samjhauta Express and Malegoan bomb attack cases to drive home his point.
Pointing out to the "failure" of NIA in properly investigating the Samjhauta blast case, Singhvi said even the judge in the case had said there were gaping holes in the prosecution evidence presented by the agency.
"Even with (its) such dismal prosecution rate in the country so far, you (government) want to give extra territorial powers to the NIA," he added. He also said the agency should not take prosecution decisions on the basis of religion.
Singhvi also pointed out various flaws in the amendment and asked the government to look into rectifying them. He pointed out that it was wrong to attach sessions court with NIA as there were already over 2.5 crore cases pending with such courts in the country.
"These are some of the valid points...we want internal security to win, we want India to win," Singhvi said.
K Keshava Rao (TRS), KK Ragesh (CPI-M), Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD), Narendra Jadhav (Nominated), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), Ajay Pratap Singh (BJP), Biswajit Daimary (BPF), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU) and Prasanna Acharya (BJD) participated in the discussion on the bill.