WikiLeaks: NIA legally weak, PC told US
P Chidambaram told the FBI director that the agency`s powers could be challenged in the court.
New Delhi: The WikiLeaks revelations continued to embarrass the government on Saturday, with the latest cable published by a leading English newspaper claiming Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had confided to a senior US official that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was legally weak.
The NIA was set up by an Act of Parliament post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, after Chidambaram was moved from the Finance Ministry to the Home Ministry, with an aim to ensure better co-ordination among various investigating agencies.
However, just two months after the NIA came into being, Chidambaram told the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller that the agency didn’t have enough legal protection as its powers could be challenged in the court for violating constitutional provisions on Centre-State relations, the English newspaper said quoting a secret US Embassy cable dated March 4, 2009, accessed through WikiLeaks.
During a meeting in New Delhi on March 3, 2009, Chidambaram confided to Mueller that the NIA was a “new weapon in hand to combat terrorism” but its constitutionality was doubtful.
As per the Act, NIA has the powers to supersede police of any state while probing and trying suspects for offences under Acts specified in its Schedule.
Offences related to acts of terrorism like hijacking, bomb blasts, attacks on nuclear installations and any others deemed as challenging India’s sovereignty and integrity come under the purview of the NIA Act.
“[Mr Chidambaram] conceded that he was coming ‘perilously close to crossing constitutional limits` in empowering the NIA. He explained the concept of a ‘federal` crime does not exist in India, with law and order the responsibility of the state governments,” Charge d`Affaires Steven White said in the cable about the meeting.
Chidambaram had during the meeting “opined that the NIA law would be challenged in court because it ascribes certain investigating powers to the NIA which may be seen to conflict with responsibility that is exclusively with the states”.
Mueller on his part told Chidambaram that in the US the Constitution empowers the FBI when crimes “cross states borders”.