Seeking to give more powers to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), including allowing it to launch a parallel probe into terror attacks on Indians and their properties abroad, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is set to introduce amendments in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, before the upcoming session of Parliament starting from July 18.
The proposed amendments will empower the NIA director-general to carry out “seizure and attachment of a property representing proceeds of terrorism”.
At present, the NIA needs the state DGP’s approval for such seizures. The NIA will also be empowered to probe cases related to human trafficking.
“The draft bills have been under discussion for the last two years. After deliberations with all the stakeholders, which includes central ministries and state governments, the MHA plans to seek approval from the Union Cabinet before introducing in the upcoming session of Parliament,” a top MHA official told The Indian Express.
According to sources, the proposal to allow the NIA to probe terror attacks on Indians and their properties abroad came up after repeated attacks on Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has similar powers, which were exercised to conduct parallel probes after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which six Americans were killed.
Another proposed amendment to the UAPA will allow the government to designate an individual suspected to have terror links as a terrorist, said an official. This decision was taken following the reports of youths joining the Islamic State. While the NIA has arrested 75 youths across India for their alleged links with the IS, not all are reported to be directly affiliated to the terror outfit. The proposed amendment, officials said, would allow the government to proscribe such individuals who are not associated with any terror organisation but indulge in terror acts independently.
Currently, there are 39 groups in the list of banned terrorist organisations under Section 35 of the UAPA. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) or ISIS Wilayat Khorasan and the Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) were the latest to be added to the list.
The draft amendments also allow NIA inspectors to investigate offences under the UAPA. At present, only an officer of Deputy SP-rank or above is empowered to probe UAPA cases.
The NIA was set up by the previous UPA government in 2009 in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The NIA Act empowers the agency to investigate offences under eight special laws, including the UAPA.