Bill to set up anti-terror national probe agency introduced (Lead)

December 16th, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) As part of a security overhaul following the Mumbai terror attacks, the government Tuesday introduced two bills to set up a National Investigation Agency (NIA) with special powers and to amend a law to provide for more stringent action against terrorism.The move came a day after the cabinet approved the proposal to set up the NIA and to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The NIA Bill provides for setting up of special courts for speedy trial of terror-related offences, with hearings to be held on a daily basis.

Introducing the bill in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “There have been innumerable incidents of terrorist attacks not only in insurgency-affected areas and those affected by leftwing extremism but also in the form of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts in various parts of hinterland and major cities.

“A large number of such incidents are found to have complex inter-state and international linkages, and possible connection with other activities like the smuggling of arms and drugs, pushing in and circulation of fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders,” he added.

“Keeping all these in view, it has for long been felt that there is need for setting up an agency at the central level for investigation of offences related to terrorism and certain other acts that have national ramifications,” Chidambaram said.

Though law and order is a state subject, NIA officers above the rank of sub-inspector will have special powers to pursue and investigate any offence related to terror across the country.

According to the bill, NIA officers will enjoy all powers, duties, privileges and liabilities which local police officers have in connection with cases related to terror.

Chidambaram said the Administrative Reforms Commission in its report “Combating Terrorism - Protecting by Righteousness” had also made various recommendations including setting up of such an agency.

The two bills have come within less than a month of the Nov 26 Mumbai terror strikes that killed over 170 people, including 26 foreigners.

An all-party meeting held earlier this month had unanimously proposed to set up a federal investigating agency to combat terrorism.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that supported the government while introducing the bill said it would examine it in detail before coming out with a detailed response.

“It (the bill) is the reluctant recognition by the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government towards the BJP’s campaign for a tough anti-terror law,” said the party’s general secretary Arun Jaitley.

The bill to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has stringent provisions including detention period of 180 days instead of the present 90 days and denial of bail altogether to a foreigner accused of terrorism in India.

Cabinet sources told IANS that a proposal for a separate law with provisions like the now repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was not favoured at Monday’s cabinet meeting as ministers from both the Congress and its allies, particularly the Lok Janashakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, were not inclined.

Another provision of the bill is that an Indian national accused in a terror-related case cannot be released on bail or on his own bond unless the public prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.

The amendments also provide for freezing, seizing and attaching funds and other financial assets or economic resources held by individuals or entities engaged in or suspected to be engaged in terrorism.

A new section has been inserted in the bill which says that those using explosives, firearms, lethal weapons, poisonous chemicals, biological or radiological weapons with the intention of aiding, abetting or committing terrorist acts “shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years”.

Anyone in India or in a foreign country who directly or indirectly raises or collects funds or provides funds for a terrorist act shall be punishable with at least five-year imprisonment, which may extend to life.

A similar punishment has been provided in the bill for those organising camps for training in terrorism, and also for those recruiting persons for commission of a terrorist act.

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