National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, passed by Rajyasabha on Thursday will soon become a law after the President's approval. In other words, NIA is being elevated to a superior role over state home ministries and police mechanism. It means that the bill apparently undermines the conventional federal principles of the country.
It was in December 2008, in the wake of Mumbai terror attack; the parliament passed NIA Act and formed National Investigation Agency. The act was passed in the backdrop of a crafted public conscience which forced all, including those who have strong disagreements with certain clauses of the bill, to give nod to the bill. Human right activists and civil society had strongly voiced their concerns and pointed out the dangers the bill posed.
However, those who opposed the bill were stamped as terrorists. A scrutiny into the cases registered under NIA act since 2008 will prove that the concerns raised were not out of place.
Using the draconian law UAPA, NIA has been turned into a totally repressive system. It is a universally agreed principle that any draconian law will affect the weakest of the society. It is a matter of experience that NIA, almost all the time, penalised the Muslims who possessed least social capital.
Moreover, we are in surplus of evidence which prove that NIA has turned into an agency meant to hunt the Muslim youth.
One of the well-known cases registered by NIA in Kerala was against a group of young people who organised a public seminar, titled 'Role of Muslims in Freedom Fight', at Panayikkulam of Ernakulam district. It is an instance of 'NIA magic' of turning a public event into a terrorist activity. However, on 12th April of this year the case was quashed by the High Court and all the accused were acquitted. But by then, precious five years of five young men were spoiled behind the bars. This is just one of the instances from Kerala only. In other states hundreds of muslim youth are languishing behind the bars after framed with false charges.
Though muslims are the primary target others are also victimized at times. Those who raise a voice of dissent or protest are branded as maoists or urban naxals using NIA. It is in this backdrop, NIA's jurisdiction is being widened.
Three important changes are effected with the amendment. First, NIA will be authorised to investigate and take actions in the cases registered outside the country. Second, the amendment empowers the Centre to turn Sessions Courts into Special Courts to conduct trials of NIA cases.
The third one is most noteworthy. Hitherto, NIA was authorised to investigate cases registered under Atomic Energy Act 1962 and UAPA 1967 only. However, after amendment comes into force, cases related to human trafficking, fake currency, production and sale of banned weapons, cyber crimes and offences under Explosive Substances Act will come under the purview of NIA. That means, petty offences registered in the states can be taken up by NIA.
To make it plainer, NIA can register case in routine bomb cases in Kannur if they want. In present scenario, it is easily guessable which all case could be found interesting for NIA. The amendment clearly empowers NIA to surpass the state governments and its executive and to intervene in the internal affairs. Method of abuse of the bill is a matter to wait and watch.
Generally, the public mood goes that these amendments are matters affecting exclusively the Muslims and there is no need of a intervention in a matter relating to the 'terrorists'. NIA bill in its existing form itself has affected muslims at its maximum. Nothing new will happen to them via the amendments. But these amendments are axing the root of federal system.
The opposition has not taken the matter with much seriousness. If they had apprehension of the dangers of the amendments they could have stopped the bill at least in Rajyasabha. Unfortunately they fell into the infamous 'either with us or with them' trap, erstwhile used by George Bush, now redeployed by Amit Shah.
As happened in the past, they may open eyes once they face the consequences of this amendment. However, by then things will have been let loose beyond control.
Behind the scene, UAPA is being amended to declare an individual as terrorist. If that also comes into force, our country will become a foolproof police state.