National Investigation Agency (NIA)

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    • According to experts, the NIA should be provided with additional infrastructure and domain experts to probe terrorism offences more efficiently.

    About National Investigation Agency (NIA)

    • Origin and history:
      • Over the past several years, India has been the victim of large scale terrorism sponsored from across the borders. 
      • There was a need for setting up of an Agency at the Central level for investigation of offences related to terrorism and certain other Acts, which have national ramifications. 
      • Several experts and Committees, including the Administrative Reforms commission in its Report, had made recommendations for establishing such an Agency.
      • The Government after due consideration and examination of the issues involved, proposed to enact a legislation to make provisions for establishment of a National Investigation Agency in a concurrent jurisdiction framework, with provisions for taking up specific cases under specific Acts for investigation.
    • Statutory body:
      • It was introduced by the then home minister in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks and was passed in Parliament with very little opposition.
      • Accordingly the NIA Act was enacted on 31st December, 2008, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was born. 
      • At present, the NIA is functioning as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency in India.
      • It is a statutory body working under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • Vision:
      • It aims to be a thoroughly professional investigative agency matching the best international standards. 
      • The NIA aims to set the standards of excellence in counter terrorism and other national security related investigations at the national level by developing into a highly trained, partnership oriented workforce. 
      • It also aims at creating deterrence for existing and potential terrorist groups/individuals. It aims to develop as a storehouse of all terrorist related information.
    • Investigation by NIA: 
      • Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.  
      • The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
      • It is headed by a Director-General, appointed by the Central Government.
    • Special Courts:
      • The Central Government for the trial of Scheduled Offences, constitutes one or more Special Courts under Section 11 and 22 of the NIA Act 2008.
      • Composition: Special Court shall be presided over by a judge to be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
      • The Central Government may, if required, appoint an additional judge or additional judges to the Special Court, on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
    • NIA (Amendment) Act 2019:
      • It empowers the NIA to probe terror attacks targeting Indians and Indian interests abroad.
      • Investigation can also be conducted in other offenses such as human trafficking; circulation of fake currency; manufacture and sale of prohibited arms; and cyber-terrorism.
      • The law included Section 66-F of the Information Technology Act in the schedule of the NIA Act, which pertains to cyber terrorism and prescribes punishment extending to life imprisonment.

    Challenges

    • Legal provisions:
      • There is no enabling provision in the Indian legal system which empowers a domain expert to be formally part of the evidence gathering team. 
      • In the absence of such a provision, the prosecution is susceptible to charges of evidence tampering in case a domain expert is involved by any agency, as the Criminal Procedure Code authorises only the police to collect evidence.
    • Experts inducement: 
      • Domain experts were also essential for efficient handling of the tools deployed for probing such offences. 
      • During the UPA regime, investigating agencies had sent proposals for inducting experts and for a provision of adequate manpower training from time to time. 
    • Cross border probes:
      • Issues involving probes in more than one country require better experienced and efficient teams. Such team formations require amendment in the law along with Government’s will to bring the change.
    • Police a state list subject:
      • Under schedule VII of the Constitution, the maintenance of public order and police forces are matters of state list.
      • However, Criminal law forms part of the concurrent list and national security comes under the domains of the union list.
    • Definition of cyber terrorism:
      • India does not have a data protection act and there is no definition of cyber terrorism.

    Way Ahead

    • Given that cross-border probe often became necessary in cybercrime cases, the system of joint probe, by investigators from India and the countries concerned, should also be adopted.
    • The concept of team investigation should be stressed upon. It  is prevalent in many countries. For example, crimes like the ransomware attack on a pipeline network in the U.S., were investigated there by teams comprising police officers and experts in the respective fields.

    Source: TH