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What is National Investigation Agency Act, and why is Chhattisgarh challenging it?

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

What is National Investigation Agency Act, and why is Chhattisgarh challenging it?

What to study?

For Prelims: NIA Act- key features.

For Mains: Need for, concerns and measures to address them.

Context: Chhattisgarh government has moved the Supreme Court against the National Investigation Act, 2008 stating it is violative of the Constitution.

What is NIA Act?

  • The law governs the functioning of India’s premier counter-terror agency. It was passed in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
  • It makes the National Investigation Agency the only truly federal agency in the country, along the lines of the FBI in the United States, more powerful than the CBI.
  • It gives the NIA powers to take suo motu cognisance of terror activities in any part of India and register a case, to enter any state without permission from the state government, and to investigate and arrest people.

Objections by Chhattisgarh:

  • In its petition, the Chhattisgarh government said the Act “ultra vires the Constitution” and “beyond the legislative competence of the Parliament”.
  • According to the state, the 2008 Act allows the Centre to create an agency for investigation, which is a function of the state police. Police’ is an entry in the State List of the Constitution’s 7th Schedule.
  • The Act takes away the state’s power of conducting an investigation through the police, while conferring “unfettered, discretionary and arbitrary powers” on the Centre.

The 2019 NIA Amendment Act:

It expanded the type of offences that the investigative body could investigate and prosecute. The agency can now investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

The amendment also enables the central government to designate sessions courts as special courts for NIA trials.

It also allows an NIA officer to conduct raids, and seize properties that are suspected to be linked to terrorist activities without taking prior permission of the Director General of Police of a state. The investigating officer only requires sanction from the Director General of NIA.

Sources: the Hindu.