National Investigation Agency

Need for NIA

  • NIA was constituted in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008.
  • Aim was to develop a national police force to investigate a selected class of criminal offences that constitute a direct threat to national safety.

About NIA

  • A central agency mandated to investigate all offences affecting sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and offences under statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of UN, other international organisations.
  • Includes terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs, fake Indian currency and infiltration from across borders.
  • Has power to search, seize, arrest & prosecute those involved in such offences.
  • Jurisdiction extends to whole of India and applies to Indian citizens outside the country. 

Scheduled Offences

  • Includes Explosive Substances Act, Atomic Energy Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Anti-Hijacking Act, Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act, Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act and relevant offences in Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and Information Technology Act.
  • In 2020, Centre empowered NIA to probe offences under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.

NIA takes up cases from State Government

  • State governments can refer cases pertaining to scheduled offences registered at any police station to Central government for NIA investigation. After assessing details, Centre can then direct NIA to take over the case. State governments are required to extend all assistance to NIA.
  • Suo-Moto cognisance by centre: When Central government is of the opinion that a scheduled offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under the Act, it may, Suo motu, direct agency to take up/over the probe.
  • When Central government finds that a scheduled offence has been committed at any place outside India to which this Act extends, it can also direct the NIA to register the case and take up investigation.
  • NIA can investigate any other offence which accused is alleged to have committed if the offence is connected to the scheduled offence.

NIA Act & Federalism

  • Issues have been raised against Suo-Moto cognisance by Central Government for investigating crimes which might fall under the state government’s sphere.  
  • State Governments having no say if Central Government decides to get cases investigated by NIA.
  • Constitutionally it is considered that public order and policing are subject matter of State Government, and in case of criminal law and criminal procedure both the Governments enjoy powers simultaneously.Bombay High Court upheld constitutional validity of NIA.Court has considered that when the parliament is competent to enact the law for the subjects enumerated in the schedule to the NIA Act, it is equally competent to create an agency for the investigation of the offences specified in it.
  • Issues have been raised against the potential of political interference in functioning of the states even in routine law and order cases.

Issues with the UAPA and NIA Act

  • Implicitly restricting right of dissent was in contradiction with Article 14 (right to equality),19 of Constitution (right to freedom of expression), and 21(right to life). Moreover, it does not offer so-called terrorist any chance to justify his case prior to his arrest.
  • UAPA authorises the government to arrest citizens who may commit the crimes listed in it.
  • Prohibits disagreement: Can be used to criminalise political protest that produce disaffection with state.Against article 21: Those apprehended under UAPA can be imprisoned for up to 180 days without being charged.Grants government vast discretionary powers and enables establishment of special courts with ability to use secret witnesses and hold closed-door hearings.
  • The provision of designating individuals as terrorist can be misused against political opponents.
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