After the horrific incident of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, it revealed the
failure of intelligence and ability of the investigation agencies within our
internal territory. This lead to the requirement of a pan India investigation
agency, which will specifically deal with these kinds of cases with special
capabilities and designated powers. To investigate, prosecution, speedy trial
and convict the pan India evils in these type of cases, country needed a special
agency, who will be designated with special authority to dispose of such cases
in pan India.
The Parliament passed the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008
on 31st December, 2008. By this, it established a dedicated body to counter the
terror related activities. The central government has the authority to establish
a specialized agency known as the National Investigation Agency. This agency
is tasked with the investigation and prosecution of offences that are explicitly
listed in the Schedule of the mentioned Act.
In the case Prakash Singh vs. Union of India
, various entities, including the
National Human Rights Commission, Soli Sorabjee Committee, Bureau of Police
Research and Development, and the second Administrative Reforms Commission,
submitted information to the Supreme Court. They all recommended the
establishment of a national investigation agency.
The Supreme Court agreed,
emphasizing the necessity for such an agency due to crimes in interstate and
international dimensions. State law enforcement faces challenges in
investigating and preventing these crimes because of jurisdiction limitations
and the inability to coordinate nationally or internationally. Moreover, state
authorities struggle to keep pace with the technological advancements adopted by
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) stands as a comprehensive solution to
combat pervasive threats across India. With a pan India mandate, it aims to
eradicate the pan India evil of transnational crimes, ensuring a unified and
robust response. NIA's role is pivotal in safeguarding the nation's security,
integrity, and sovereignty.
The Pan-India Evil and Establishment of NIA
In recent years, India has faced significant challenges due to widespread
terrorism and activities incidental to it from across its borders. The nation
has witnessed numerous terrorist incidents, not only in regions affected by
militancy, insurgency, and Left Wing Extremism but also through attacks like
bombings in various hinterlands and major cities.
Many of these incidents have
intricate connections with other states and international networks, potentially
linked to activities such as arms and drug smuggling, circulation of counterfeit
Indian currency, and infiltration from neighboring borders.
Recognizing the complexity and interconnected nature of these incidents, there
was a recognized need for a centralized agency dedicated to investigating
offences related to terrorism and other acts with national implications. Various
experts and committees, including the Administrative Reforms Commission, had
recommended the establishment of such an agency.
After thorough consideration
and examination of the issues involved, the government proposed the enactment of
legislation to establish a National Investigation Agency (NIA) with a concurrent
jurisdiction framework. This legislation would empower the agency to take up
specific cases under particular Acts for investigation.
December 31, 2008, the NIA Act was enacted, giving rise to the National
Investigation Agency. The NIA presently operates as the central
counter-terrorism law enforcement agency in India. Its role is crucial in
addressing and investigating offences related to terrorism and other acts with
national implications, reflecting the government's commitment to enhancing the
country's security and combating cross-border threats to secure the peace and
harmony of the country.
The NIA Act, 2008
The above mentioned Act contains a Preamble, five Chapters with twenty-six
Sections and a Schedule at the end. The Preamble of the Act contains the actual
need for the enactment of a special legislation as, "This legislation is
designed to create a national-level investigation agency with the mandate to
investigate and prosecute offences that impact the sovereignty, security, and
integrity of India.
The agency's jurisdiction extends to matters involving the
security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, as well as
offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements,
conventions, and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies, and other
international organizations. The Act also covers related matters and issues
incidental to the aforementioned objectives."
"The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies to any citizen of India
outside India, a person in the Government service wherever they may be, persons
on ships and aircrafts registered in India and to persons who commit a Scheduled
Offence beyond India against the Indian citizens or affecting the interest of
India." As usual Section 2 of the legislation provide some of the
definitions. The second chapter discusses the constitution, superintendence and
manner of constitution and conditions of service of members. The Central
Government has vested the superintendence of the NIA. The agency is empowered
to investigate cross-state terrorism without explicit state permissions,
provided there is a written proclamation from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Investigation by the NIA
Upon receiving information and documenting as FIR concerning any of the
Scheduled Offence, the police station's officer-in-charge is mandated to
promptly transmit the report to the State Government. Subsequently, upon
receiving this report, the State Government is obligated to expeditiously
forward it to the Central Government. The Central Government within fifteen days
decide the offence a Scheduled offence or not.
Also check the gravity of the
offence whether it is a fit case to be investigated by the agency. If they
satisfied then direct the NIA to investigate it as soon as possible.
Sub-section 5 of the Section 6 gives the Central Government suo motu power to
transfer the cases to the agency. After taking the case by the agency the State
investigation shall stop and they will transmit all the relevant findings to
If the Scheduled Offence has been committed any place outside India, then
the Central Government shall direct the agency to investigate the offence.
According to the gravity of the offence and other relevant factors the agency
may collaborate with the State Government or transfer the case for investigation
and trial to the State Authority with the previous approval of the Central
Section 8 empowers the agency to investigate the offences which
are connected to the Schedule Offences. The State Government shall investigate
the Schedule Offences unless and until it transfers to the agency. Upon the
case's transfer, the State Government is obligated to provide full assistance
and cooperation to the Agency for the ongoing investigation.
Special Courts for the Trial
Chapter Four of the Act dealt with Special Court of NIA. Section 11 of the
National Investigation Act, 2008 gives power to the Central Government that it
shall designate one or more Court of Session as Special Court for the trail of
the Scheduled Offences in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Same as Section 22 empowers the State Government to designate one or more Courts
of Session as Special Courts for trying offences under specified enactments
listed in the Schedule.
The Agency's investigations into any Scheduled Offence
mandate exclusive trial by the Special Court within the geographical
jurisdiction where the offence occurred. While adjudicating any offence,
Special Court has the authority to concurrently try any other offence for which
the accused may be charged, provided that the offence is connected with the
Section 16 of the Act discusses the procedures for trials
and powers of the Special Courts. If a Special Court deems an offence beyond its
jurisdiction, it transfers the case to a Court with proper jurisdiction under
the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the receiving Court may proceed with
the trial as if it initially took cognizance.
An appeal shall lie on the
High Court within thirty days from the date of the judgement, sentence or order
of the Special Court. The High Court shall try its best to dispose of the appeal
with in three months from the date of admission of the appeal.
Additional Crucial Provisions
The Central Government appoints a Public Prosecutor and may appoint Additional
Public Prosecutors as needed. In specific cases, a Special Public Prosecutor can
also be appointed. To qualify, a person must have at least seven years of legal
practice as an Advocate or have held a post requiring specialized legal
knowledge for seven years under the Union or a State.
Section 17 of the Act
provides the protection of witnesses. Section 18 protects the members of the
agency from prosecution without previous permission of the Central Government.
The Sections says "Legal proceedings, including prosecutions or suits, against
any member of the Agency or any person acting on their behalf for actions taken
under the powers conferred by this Act, cannot be initiated in any Court of law
without prior sanction from the Central Government."
- The Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
- The Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
- The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016.
- The Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982.
- The SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1993.
- The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.
- The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
- Chapter VI of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) [Sections 121 to 130]
- Sections 370 and 370A of Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Sections 489-A to 489-E (both inclusive) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Sub-section (1AA) of section 25 of Chapter V of the Arms Act, 1959.
- Section 66F of Chapter XI of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The mission of the agency is clearly illuminated in their dedicated website.
Some of those missions are as mentioned below:
- Professional Investigation- Conduct thorough investigations of scheduled offences using the latest scientific methods to ensure the detection of all cases entrusted to the NIA.
- Efficient Trial Processes- Ensure effective and speedy trials for cases under investigation.
- Professionalism and Constitution Adherence- Develop into a highly professional and result-oriented organization, upholding the constitution and laws of India while prioritizing the protection of human rights and individual dignity.
- Workforce Development- Develop a professional workforce through regular training and exposure to best practices and procedures.
- Scientific and Progressive Approach- Display a scientific temper and progressive spirit while fulfilling assigned duties.
- Incorporate Modern Methods and Technology- Integrate modern methods and the latest technology in all aspects of agency activities.
- Collaboration and Relations- Maintain professional and cordial relations with the governments of States, Union Territories, and other law enforcement agencies in accordance with the legal provisions of the NIA Act.
- Assistance to States and Agencies- Assist all states and other investigating agencies in the investigation of terrorist cases.
- Database Management- Build a comprehensive database on all terrorist-related information and share it with states and other relevant agencies.
- Analysis of Anti-Terrorism Laws- Study and analyse anti-terrorism laws in other countries, regularly evaluating the adequacy of existing laws in India, and proposing changes when necessary.
- Public Confidence Building- Win the confidence of Indian citizens through selfless and fearless endeavours.
The National Investigation Agency faces several challenges in carrying out
its mandate effectively:
- Complex Jurisdictional Issues- The NIA deals with offences that have interstate and international dimensions, leading to complex jurisdictional challenges. Coordinating investigations across different states and navigating international legal frameworks can be intricate.
- Coordination with State Agencies- Collaboration with State law enforcement agencies is crucial, but it can be challenging due to varying levels of infrastructure, resources, and expertise. Ensuring seamless coordination and information sharing poses a constant challenge.
- International Cooperation- Coordinating with foreign law enforcement agencies and navigating diplomatic channels for extradition or information sharing can be complex. Overcoming legal and cultural differences adds an additional layer of challenge.
- Technological Advancements- Rapid technological changes pose a challenge to the NIA, as many crimes, especially those with cross-border links, involve sophisticated use of technology. Staying abreast of technological advancements and cyber threats is essential.
- Resource Constraints- Adequate funding, personnel, and technological resources are essential for the NIA to function effectively. Resource constraints can impact the agency's ability to handle a diverse range of cases simultaneously.
- Public Perception and Legal Scrutiny with Protection of Human Rights- The NIA operates in a sensitive space involving national security. Public perception and legal scrutiny are high, and any misstep in high-profile cases can lead to scrutiny and criticism. Balancing the need for thorough investigations with the protection of human rights is a constant challenge. Ensuring fair and transparent proceedings while dealing with sensitive cases is crucial.
- Adapting to Changing Threats- NIA faces an ongoing challenge in keeping its personnel well-trained and skilled to address evolving crime trends and investigative methods. Ensuring investigators maintain a high level of expertise is crucial. As national security threats change over time, the NIA must continuously update its strategies, training, and technologies to effectively counter emerging challenges, particularly in areas such as terrorism and organized crime.
- Political influence- After the amendment in 2019, some of the matters which are under concurrent list and state list, are now under the purview of the NIA. That leads threat to our federalism, one of the basic structure of our Constitution. Some of the cases are now alleged to be investigated by the agency due to political pressure.
These multifaceted challenges require a holistic and adaptive approach by the
NIA. By addressing these challenges requires continuous efforts in terms of
legal frameworks, political will, technological capabilities, international
cooperation, continuous trainings and resource allocation to enable the NIA to
fulfill its crucial role in safeguarding national security and integrity.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act of 2008, along with its rules,
reflects the government's commitment to combat terrorism in line with
international conventions. The conviction rates of the agency are better than
the other investigation agencies. The NIA aims to enhance national security by
investigating and prosecuting transnational offences.
However, to meet FBI
standards of USA, it requires government support and independence in handling
cases. While the existing NIA Act has effective provisions, there are
shortcomings, especially when dealing with cases previously investigated by
State Police. Strained Central-State relations can hinder cooperation, impacting
To prevent delay of investigations and miscarriages of
justice, the NIA should function independently without political pressure. Some
of the high profile and complicated cases like Union of India v. K.A. Najeeb,
National Investigation Agency v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Gautam Navlakha v.
National Investigation Agency, etc. are dealt by this agency very efficiently
and professionally. The NIA's performance is crucial to avoid any further
incidents like 26/11 attacks.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) aims to elevate itself into a profoundly
proficient investigative body, adhering to global benchmarks. It endeavours to
achieve eminence in nationwide counter-terrorism and national security probes,
cultivating a skilled and cooperative personnel. The agency's objectives
encompass deterring existing and potential terrorist groups while evolving into
a comprehensive repository for all information related to terrorism.
- Srinibas Praharaj, LL.M. Batch of 2023-2024, School of Security and Law Enforcement, Rashtriya Raksha University.
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 3
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 2(1)(f)
- AIR 2006 8 SCC 1.
- National Investigation Agency, https://www.nia.gov.in/about-us.htm last accessed 4th December, 2023.
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 1
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 4
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 6
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 7
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 9
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 13
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 14
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 20
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 21
- National Investigation Agency Act 2008, s 15
- National Investigation Agency, https://www.nia.gov.in/vision-mission.htm last accessed 4th December, 2023
- SR Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC