Why in News:
- The National Investigation Agency launched a massive nationwide search operation in connection with anti-terror activities. The operation, being described as the “largest ever”, involves searches across 10 states, and has so far led to the arrest of as many as 100 people linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI).
What is the NIA?
- It is a central agency constituted under the NIA Act, 2008 mandated to investigate all the offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and the offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations.
- These include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders. The agency has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.
- The jurisdiction of National Investigation Agency (NIA) extends to the whole of India as per the NIA Act, 2008.
- Headquartered in Delhi
When did the NIA come into being?
- In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, which shocked the entire world, the central government decided to establish the NIA.
- The agency came into existence on December 31, 2008, and started its functioning in 2009.
What are the scheduled offences?
- The schedule to the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA.
- The list includes the 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 under the Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and the Information Technology Act.
- In September 2020, the Centre empowered the NIA to also probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.
How wide is the NIA’s jurisdiction?
- The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country; persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted; persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be; persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affecting the interest of India.
NIA and consent of the states
- The act gives the NIA powers to take suo motu cognisance of terror activities in any part of India and register a case, to enter any state without permission from the state government, and to investigate and arrest people. The Act makes the National Investigation Agency the only truly federal agency in the country, along the lines of the FBI in the United States, more powerful than the CBI.
- Section 6 of the NIA Act permits the central government to direct the agency (NIA), suo motu, to investigate any offence if it feels that a crime is a scheduled offence fit to be probed by the NIA. This section gives power to the Centre to take over any investigation after any number of days, without taking consent from the state.
- Under the constitution of India, law and order is a state subject. These ambiguities that the states’ privilege may be encroached upon by the Centre using this act are resolved using the ‘doctrine of Pith and Substance’. As per Seventh Schedule, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Constitution.
In comparison- The CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and it must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state. The consent of the state government to CBI can be either case-specific or general. It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving officials of the central government or a private person in the state without the consent of the state government.
How are cases referred to NIA?
By the Centre
- When the 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 the agency to take up/over the probe.
- When the 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. While investigating any scheduled offence, the agency can also investigate any other offence which the accused is alleged to have committed if the offence is connected to the scheduled offence.
By the states
- As provided under Section 6 of the Act, State governments can refer the cases pertaining to the scheduled offences registered at any police station to the Central government (Union Home Ministry) for NIA investigation. After assessing the details made available, the Centre can then direct the agency to take over the case. State governments are required to extend all assistance to the NIA.
Recent amendment of NIA act
The NIA act was amended in 2019. The three key areas of the amendment were:
- Scheduled offences: The schedule to the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA. The amended act allow the NIA to investigate the following offences, in addition: (i) human trafficking, (ii) offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes, (iii) manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, (iv) cyber-terrorism, and (v) offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
- Jurisdiction of the NIA: The Act provides for the creation of the NIA to investigate and prosecute offences specified in the schedule. The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to investigation of such offences, across India. The amended 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 original Act allows the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The amended act says 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. Further, state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA), also passed in 2019, allows an NIA officer to conduct raids, and seize properties that are suspected to be linked to terrorist activities without taking prior permission of the Director General of Police of a state. The investigating officer only requires sanction from the Director General of NIA.