The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the NIA (Amendment) Bill amid an acrimonious debate between treasury and Opposition benches where the government was accused of misusing the agency for political vendetta and turning India into a “police state”.
The debate stood out for the rather confrontational exchanges between AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Owaisi opposed the Bill and demanded a division when it was put to voice vote by Speaker Om Birla. Shah supported Owaisi’s demand, saying this would expose “who were against terrorism and who were supporting it”.
The Bill was eventually passed by an overwhelming majority. But six MPs voted against it. The Indian Express asked five of them why they voted against the Bill:
The government intends to give more powers to NIA when its very independence is under cloud. Government is giving NIA extra-territorial jurisdiction, but where is the diplomatic clout for pursuing cases abroad? The Bill says “where India’s interest is hurt”. What is it? It is very subjective. Anyone can be brought in through this. You write a blog and you will be brought in.
The Bill has included Section 370 of the IPC which deals with human trafficking. This can be used for love jihad also. Also, you are duplicating what the CBI and local police are doing. How is NIA then a premier investigating agency?
The whole issue about the independence of NIA is another matter of concern. When I asked why you did not file an appeal (in cases where Hindu hardline groups are accused), the Home Minister said we have prosecution department to take care of that. In Mecca Masjid case, the lawyer arguing the case had not handled a single criminal case in his life. He was made the lawyer for the NIA.
Unless NIA proves its credentials that it is an independent agency, why should it be given more powers?… Giving more teeth to NIA without assurances of its independence is not acceptable. Terrorism needs to be stopped, but does that mean you are given so much power that if the victim happens to be a Muslim, no action will be taken.
Owaisi gave the example of how the government did not appeal in Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta blast cases. Why didn’t the government do so? Because victims are Muslims.
The Home Minister is saying those who do not support the Bill are supporting terrorism. We have always condemned terrorism.
The NIA Act is an example of purely institutional terrorism. It is anti-democracy. The Bill is giving more power to officers of NIA when the agency has the potential to become a serious threat to Opposition parties. Already CBI and ED are being used to target the Opposition. We believe NIA could meet the same fate. Victimisation is main our concern. Moreover, Amit Shah’s body language during the reply to the debate was very threatening to the Opposition.
A M Ariff
Earlier under UAPA only organisations could be branded as terrorist. Now the government has changed it to include individuals. Under UAPA, so many persons are under unlawful detention. I spoke in the House about 11 Muslims who underwent detention for 20 years. They were acquitted last February. Who will answer for their suffering for 20 years?
Under the NIA Act, the agency can investigate any case anywhere. This is against the federal principle of the Constitution.
P R Natarajan
Most of this Act is meant for taking revenge against one particular community. There is a wide chance of misuse of the provisions in the Bill. They have already taken all the powers of the state governments. They say terrorism has no religion. But the Act is mostly used against a particular religion.
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