The NIA Amendment Bill 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha amid uproar and sharp debates between the Opposition leaders and Modi government ministers on Monday. While the Centre says the NIA Amendment Bill 2019 will accelerate India’s fight against terrorism, the Opposition is of the view that it is an attempt by the Modi government to turn India into a ‘police state’. So, what exactly is the NIA Amendment Bill 2019? What are the changes brought by the Modi government? Here’s your guide to understand the Bill that gives sweeping powers to NIA officers and expands their probe circle beyond India.
In simple terms, the NIA Amendment Bill 2019 will give power to the probe agency that was set up in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The key change in the new Bill is that it empowers the NIA to probe offences under ‘scheduled list.’ This means that the NIA can now investigate the offences related to human trafficking; circulation of fake currency; manufacture and sale of prohibited arms; and cyber-terrorism.
Another major change is that the NIA officers can now probe offences committed outside India. It means that the NIA can extend its investigation beyond Indian borders. However, it will have to deal with international laws, bilateral treaties and local laws of that particular country.
The third biggest change in the NIA Amendment Bill 2019 is that now there will be special courts for adjudicating such cases. In addition to this, the Centre may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
Meanwhile, according to PRS Legislative Research, the officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to investigation of such offences, across India.
During the Lok Sabha debate, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the law will be used to finish off terrorism and not to target any community. Defending the bill, the Government refuted opposition's allegations of "misuse" of the NIA law to target members of a community, and stressed that people have given the mandate to the government to protect the country from terrorism. The NIA is investigating as many as 272 cases and has filed chargesheet in 199. While 278 members supported its consideration, only six opposed it. The Bill was later passed by a voice vote.