M A I N   N E W S

Federal agency to tackle terror gets cabinet nod
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15
Finally, after much deliberations and despite objections from several states, including Punjab, the union cabinet tonight gave its approval for the formation of a national investigating agency (NIA) to handle the cases of terrorism, organised crimes with inter-state and foreign linkages.

A special meeting of the cabinet approved this. The cabinet also okayed amendments to existing laws to combat terror. “Bills for these purposes will be introduced in Parliament,” an official spokesman told mediapersons here tonight.

The important amendment will be to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Though the government does not want to unleash another TADA or POTA like Act, it is understood that provisions to detain a person will be more stringent by providing for up to 180 days or detention against 90 days at present.

Also the onus of proving innocence will on part of accused. The TADA — Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act and the POTA — Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, had been repealed in Parliament following complaints of widespread misuse.

The opposition parties like the BJP has been demanding tough anti-terror POTA like law, which the Congress and the government had been rejecting. Even several senior police officers have advised against using POTA or TADA.

The other important step is to establish the NIA. Since the law and order is a state subject, the proposed amendment may give the Centre overriding powers over the states in case of terrorist attacks, like the Mumbai attacks or the various blasts. Article 246 of the Constitution allows the Central government this power to override the states in making laws.

The final contours of the NIA will be known only when the bill is tabled, however, it is likely to be opposed by several regional parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal, the DMK, the Janata Dal United and even, to some extent, by the Left parties. The latter have already said the states had to be on board such an agency.

Sources said the NIA would override all agencies when it would come to probing and collating information and intelligence on crimes that would designate as “federal crimes”. It could be reporting directly to the Prime Minister or have special minister handling internal security.

The cabinet decision comes in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks after which the government has expressed its determination to put in place a tough legal framework to combat the menace.

The Prime minister and home minister P. Chidambaram have told Parliament and talked about strengthening legal framework to combat terror — toughening the provisions of law.



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