New Delhi, Dec 16: The Indian cabinet Monday approved the creation of a National Investigating Agency (NIA) to probe and prosecute terror-related and other crimes that have countrywide ramifications, an official statement said.
“The union cabinet today gave its approval to the proposal to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and for setting up of a National Investigating Agency,” a terse three-line statement late Monday said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“The cabinet also approved a proposal for amendment to the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) Act. Bills for these purposes will be introduced in parliament,” the statement added.
No details were released since this would have amounted to contempt of parliament as both houses are currently in session, officials said.
The proposal to create the NIA was taken at an all-party meeting here Nov 30 presided over by the prime minister afte the Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks that India has blamed on elements operating from Pakistan.
In the past, the government, while speaking of the need for an NIA, has been saying that was dependant on arriving at a consensus with the states for the measure.
This is because the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that currently probes inter- or intra-state crime, first needs the concurrence of the states involved.
However, the need for the NIA has acquired urgency in the wake of a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi – all of which the investigating agencies say were linked in some way.
The issue acquired added urgency in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.
There are also indications that the amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are meant to give it more teeth rather than introduce a new, draconian measure like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), enacted in 2002 by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and repealed soon after the United Progressive Alliance coalition came to power in 2004.
While the government had tightened the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act before repealing POTA, there was a widespread feeling, particularly enunciated by the BJP, that these were not enough to control growing instances of terrorist violence in the country.
To this end, the amendments to the act are likely to be in line with the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) on the issue.
The ARC, in releasing on Sep 16 its eighth report titled ‘Combating Terrorism’, recommended the establishment of a federal probe agency as also the enactment of stringent laws to deal with the scourge.
“Tough anti-terror laws are required. We are of the view that a federal agency is required to investigate terrorist offences,” ARC chairman M. Veerappa Moily told reporters while releasing the report.
Among the other measures the commission has recommended are strengthening anti-money-laundering laws to block the flow of funds for financing terrorist activities, creation of fast-track courts to exclusively deal with terrorist-related cases and a multi-pronged strategy to deal with “the menace of terrorism”.
This apart, the commission also said that no person accused of an offence punishable under the National Security Act (NSA) should be released on bail.
“A comprehensive and effective legal framework to deal with all aspects of terrorism needs to be enacted,” the commission said in its report.
Nearly 825 people have died in terrorist attacks in the country in the past eight years, with most of the cases yet to be cracked. Of these more than 170 died in the Mumbai carnage alone.