National Investigation Agency Act

Recently, the Jharkhand government has moved to the Supreme court claiming that the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 violates the constitution. In a civil suit, they have said that the National Investigation agency should not have any power over state governments.

What is the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008?

The National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 gives the National Investigation Agency the power of being the only truly federal agency in India, along the lines of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, making it more powerful than the CBI. It also gives the agency powers to take suo motu cognizance of any terror activities, in any part of the country and register a case. Along with this, the NIA can also enter any state without permission from the respective state government and can investigate the matter and arrest people.

What is the need for the National Investigation Agency?

In the past, investigations have shown that terrorist incidents have complicated inter-state and international links. They may have a connection with organized crime, such as the smuggling of arms, the distribution of illegal drugs, circulation of fake Indian currency, etc. This agency was created at a central level to ensure a smooth investigation of offenses related to terrorism and such other activities post-2008 Mumbai terror attacks. In 2019, a bill to amend the act was introduced which enables the act to add human trafficking, counterfeiting currency or banknotes, manufacturing or selling prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and all offenses under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 to its purview. The amendment also gives the central government the right to assign sessions courts as special courts for the agency’s trials.

What is the criticism against the act?

The foremost criticism of the act is that it takes away the state’s power of conducting an independent investigation through the police while allowing the center access to “unfettered, discretionary and arbitrary powers”. It leaves no room for center-state coordination and takes away from the sovereignty of the state, as conceived under the Constitution of India, by stripping it off of its right to consent. Matters arising within the territorial jurisdiction of any State are generally investigated by Police, who under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution is a part of the State List.

Way Forward

India cannot function without the center and states being in agreement. As far as the National Investigation Agency Act is concerned, the special powers it allows the center is mentioned to only be in the case of matters “affecting the interest of India”, however, the act does not define the phrase and therein lies the problem. The center and the state must now coordinate to ensure that there is no ambiguity within the act.

Question for UPSC Mains:
The Jharkhand government has moved to the Supreme court claiming that the National Investigation Agency Act is unconstitutional. Critically analyze.

Published: January 17, 2020 | Modified:January 17, 2020

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