NIA Act

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Context: The state government of Chhattisgarh instituted a suit in the Supreme Court against the Centre, challenging the National Investigation Agency Act. The plaint was moved under Article 131 of the Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases between states and the Centre.

Relevance:
Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
Mains: GS III- Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act, 2019:

  • The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act, 2008 was passed by the Parliament in 2008 which provides for the creation of a National Investigation Agency with the aim of investigating acts of terrorism.
  • It came into existence in the backdrop of the November 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. 
  • The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by Lok Sabha in 2019. The Act amends the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008.
  • The 2008 Act provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences). 
  • NIA has concurrent jurisdiction which empowers the Central Agency to probe terror attacks in any part of the country, covering offences, including:
    1. a challenge to the country's sovereignty and integrity,
    2. bomb blasts,
    3. the hijacking of aircraft and ships,
    4. attacks on nuclear installations.
  • The amendments to the NIA Act has brought the offences relating to the smuggling in High-Quality Counterfeit Indian Currency under the definition of a terrorist Act aimed at damaging the monetary stability of the country and therefore can be investigated by the NIA.
  • Further, the Act allows for the creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
  • Scheduled offences:
    • The schedule to the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA. 
    • These include offences under Acts such as:
      -Atomic Energy 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, and
      -Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. 
    • The Bill seeks to allow the NIA to investigate the following offences, in addition:
      1. human trafficking,
      2. offences related to counterfeit currency or banknotes,
      3. manufacture or sale of prohibited arms,
      4. cyber-terrorism, and
      5. offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.       
  • Jurisdiction of the NIA:
    • The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to the investigation of such offences, across India. 
    • The Act states that in addition, officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries. 
    • The central government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases as if the offence has been committed in India. 
    • The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.
  • Special Courts:
    • The Act allows the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. 
    • The Act amends this to state that the central government may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. 
    • The central government is required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning, before designating it as a Special Court.
    • When more than one Special Court has been designated for any area, the senior-most judge will distribute cases among the courts. 
    • Further, state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.   

How has Chhattisgarh challenged this law?

  • There have been questions raised on how NIA is usurping state rights under the guise of fighting terror.
  • On January 15, the state of Chhattisgarh moved a plaint challenging the NIA Act in the Supreme Court.
  • In its plaint, the state argued that police were under the state list and Parliament was not competent to pass a law like the NIA Act.
  • The state government said the NIA Act took away the state’s powers to investigate crimes.
  • There are no rules governing the exercise of Centre’s powers under the Act, making the law arbitrary.
  • As the law does not provide scope for obtaining the consent of the state government before operating in its jurisdiction, it violates the federal principle enshrined in the Constitution.

How does the NIA Act affect state powers?

  • Since the police are in the state list, the state police are already vested with powers to investigate offences mentioned in the Act.
    • However, by the passing of the NIA Act, the Centre expanded its jurisdiction to investigating crimes even though the concept of a federal crime does not exist in India.
    • Under the law, the NIA could take over cases if they fall under the offences mentioned in the Schedule of the Act.
    • There was no need for the Centre to seek the permission of the state governments as the law empowers the Centre to investigate the scheduled offences suo motu.
  • Last year (2019), the government amended the NIA Act to expand its scope.
    • Offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism and offences under the Explosive Substances Act were added to the list.
    • Through an amendment to Section 3 of the act, all the powers, duties, privileges and liabilities that state police officers have in connection with the investigation of offences listed under the act became available to the NIA as well.
    • This means the agency can make arrests directly in the states without having to go through the state agencies.
  • The constitutional validity of this law will now be determined by the Supreme Court of India. 



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