Federal agency to have super powers
NIA to cover
Threat to atomic energy
All kinds of terrorist activities and harbouring of terrorists.
HijackingThreat to safety of civil aviation
Threat to maritime navigation and off-shore oil rigs.
SAARC convention on suppression of terrorism
Threat from weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems
New Delhi, December 16
Ushering in a new pattern of policing, the proposed national investigation agency (NIA) will be a super body with far-reaching and country-wide powers. It will control and investigate everything connected to terrorism, counterfeiting of currency, threat to atomic installations and energy, maritime security, hijacking, sedition and waging a war against the nation, among others crimes.
The NIA will be backed by special courts, provision for in-camera proceedings and protection of witnesses. Its officials will have over riding powers over state police forces when dealing with these “designated crimes” that will fall under its ambit. The need for the NIA was illustrated by the Administrative Reforms Commission and also after several inter-state and international linkages were found between smuggling, terrorism, fake currency, infiltration and risk to installations.
The central Government today unveiled the contours of the NIA when home minister P. Chidambaram introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha for its formation late in the afternoon. The Bill will come for discussion and approval in the current session of Parliament.
The Bill proposes to empower an official of the NIA to have countrywide jurisdiction and, crucially, use “powers of the officer-in-charge of the police station of the area where he is functioning”. This could be any of the police stations across the country. Meaning thereby he/she will act as a station house officer (SHO) when dealing with crimes under the NIA’s ambit. The NIA official will enjoy all powers and duties that the SHO of local police stations is empowered under the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973.
The Bill specifies offences under seven major acts that will fall under the NIA’s ambit and also 10 sections of the Indian penal code. Crucially, the sections of the IPC deal with collecting arms with an intent to wage a war against the nation, sedition, waging war with any Asian neighbour, aiding an escape of any prisoner, counterfeiting currency, among others.
The NIA will also over ride the provisions of the Police Act - 1861 when investigating these specified crimes. Though, some what, the states have been kept in the loop as a section in the Bill empowers them to inform the NIA on finding such offences being committed, however, the NIA can act suo moto to deal with any of the scheduled crimes. This is a change from the pattern used by the CBI wherein the states approval is a mandatory requirement before the agency can take over the case.
On the prosecution front, the NIA, like the CBI, will have designated special courts across the country. A judge of a high court will preside over the special court. All offences under the ambit of the NIA will be heard by the special Judge only. The NIA will have the powers to approach the Supreme Court to get the case transferred out of a particular state if pursuance of justice is not possible in the area of offence. The special court will have the powers to prosecute a person, who is nabbed for a “specified crime” but is also involved in cases under other laws.
The NIA can also seek permission of the special judge to conduct in-camera proceedings and also avoid mentioning the names of the witnesses in orders passed. The court can also issue directions in public interest to prevent publication of proceedings pending in court and also keep the names of the witnesses a secret.
The NIA will be headed by the director-general rank official, who will be on par with the DG of a state police force.