Govt brings in terror bill with stringent provisions, NIA
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Last Updated: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 00:00
  
Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi, Dec 16: Aiming to strengthen the existing Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, under which acts of terror have been tried so far, the UPA government on Tuesday introduced the anti-terror Bill in Parliament. The bill makes it impossible for terror suspects from outside the country to get bail and extends police custody for suspects to 90 days.

Even 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 Bill says that the court shall presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the accused has committed an offence for which he has been arrested, including possession of arms or explosives with a belief that these or such substances were used in the commission of a terror act.

It also provides 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 terror act "shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years".

The Bill says that 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.

The Bill says that every offence punishable under this Act shall be deemed to be cognizable offence. It says that if it is not possible to complete the investigation within 90 days, it may be extended upto 180 days. Besides, no person accused of a terror-related offence, if in custody, would be released on bail or on his own bond.

NIA

The government also introduced a bill for setting up of the National Investigating Agency (NIA). The NIA will cover, among other things, smuggling of fake currency, terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking and smuggling.

The NIA Bill provides for setting up of Special Courts for speedy trial of terror-related offences, with hearings to be held on day-to-day basis. Any case pending in any special court can be transferred to any other special court.

Notwithstanding law and order being the state subject, officers of the NIA above the rank of Sub Inspector will have special powers to pursue and investigate any offence related to terror across the country.

Officers of the Agency would enjoy all powers, duties, privileges and liabilities which the local police officers have in connection with cases related to terror.

The National Investigation Agency Bill 2008 and The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill were moved by Home Minister P Chidambaram in the Lok Sabha, a day after the Union Cabinet gave its nod to such measures.

The Agency is being sought to be established in a concurrent jurisdiction framework with provisions for taking up specific cases under specific Acts for investigation, the Bill said.

The NIA Bill also provides for protection of witnesses by keeping their identity and address secret if the special court is satisfied that the life of such a person is in danger.

The hearings may be held in 'in camera' if the special court so desires.

On receipt of report from the state government, the Centre shall determine on the basis of information available from the state government or received from other sources within 15 days whether the offence is related to terror or any other national crime.

If the Centre is of the opinion that an offence committed requires to be investigated under the proposed NIA Act, it may suo motu direct the agency to investigate it.

A state government or any police officer of a state government investigating the offence shall not proceed with the investigation and shall forthwith transmit the relevant documents and records to the agency.

The state government shall extend all assistance and cooperation to the agency for investigation of a terror-related case.

The NIA, having regard to the gravity of the offence and other relevant factors, may request the state government to associate itself with the investigation or with approval of the Central government transfer the case to the state government for probe and trial of the offence.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says the need has been felt for long for setting up an agency at the Central level for investigation of offences related to terrorism and certain other acts having national ramifications.

While introducing the two bills in Parliament, Home Minister Chidambaram said, that the Bills have been brought forward as the "country has been the victim of large-scale terrorism sponsored from across the border."

"There have been innumerable incidents of terrorist attacks, not only in the militancy and insurgency-affected areas and areas affected by left wing extremism but also in the form of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts in various parts of the hinterland and major cities," he said.

The Cabinet had yesterday also approved the proposal for amendment to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Act.

The move comes weeks after terror attacks in Mumbai left at least 183 people dead and nearly 300 injured.

Terror-Highlights

Following are the salient features of the proposed National Investigation Agency (NIA):

  • The Bill for constitution of the NIA to be applicable to whole of India, citizens of India outside India and persons on shops and aircraft registered in India;

  • Officers of the NIA to have all powers, privileges and liabilities which the police officers have in connection with investigation of any offence;

  • The police officer in charge of a police station on receipt of the report of the offence shall forward it to the state government which in turn will send it to the Centre. If the Centre feels the offence is terror related, it shall direct the NIA for investigation;

  • Provision for transfer of investigation and trial of offences to state government with Centre's prior approval;

  • NIA may investigate other offences connected with terror-related offences;

  • A state government shall extend all assistance to NIA for investigation of terror-related offences;

  • Provisions of the Act with regard to investigation shall not affect powers of the state government to investigate and prosecute any terror crime or other offences;

  • Centre shall constitute Special Courts for trial of terror-related offences;

  • Special Courts may sit at any place for any of its proceedings;

  • For speedy and fair trial, the Supreme Court may transfer any case pending with the Special Court to another Special Court in the same state or any other state, and the High Court may transfer such cases to any other Special Court within the state.

  • Offences punishable with imprisonment for less than three years may be tried summarily;

  • Special Court to have all powers of the Court of Sessions under CrPC for trial of any offence under the Act;

  • Proceedings to be held 'in camera' if Special Court deems it necessary;

  • Trial to be held on day-to-day basis on all working days and to have precedence over the trial of other offences;

  • State governments empowered to constitute one or more Special Courts;

  • No appeal shall be entertained after the expiry of 90 days.

  • Highlights of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008:

  • Use of bombs, dynamite, poisons or noxious gases, biological radioactive nuclear substances are terror act;

  • Aiding, abetting or committing a terrorist act shall be punishable with imprisonment up to ten years;

  • Funding terror activities, organising training camps and recruiting persons for committing terror acts shall be punishable with at least five years' imprisonment;

  • Detention of accused upto 180 days if investigation not completed;

  • No bail shall be granted if accused is not an Indian citizen and has entered the country unauthorisedly;

  • No accused, if in custody, to be released on bail or on his own bond;

  • Court shall presume, unelss contrary is shown, that accused has committed offence.


    First Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 00:00


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