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Last month, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh alleged that the actions of the Central Government directed the National Investigation Agency to investigate the offenses committed regarding Bhima Koregaon case was against the Constitution. He condemned the Central Government of not receiving the consent of the Maharashtra Government before transferring the investigation to the agency.
He stated that the case was closely tied to sensitive issues and the Maharashtra Government was probing the case to find the root of the matter. Suspicion was also stated by the minister as the investigation was in the process and there was no apparent reason the Central Government to act in such a way.
Significance of this development
When the investigation of the case is transferred to the National Investigation Agency, the State Government and police officers under the government cannot continue the investigation. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had stated that the action of the Central Government is questionable as the right to investigate the issue was suddenly taken away from the Maharashtra Government.
The reaction of Maharashtra Government can be seen as questioning the possibility of the Central Government misusing the power the Centre has regarding the NIA system and need to justify for taking away the right to investigate the issue from the State Government.
What is NIA?
The National Investigation Agency is an agency established by the Government of India which came to existence on December 31st, 2008 when the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 was enacted. It is headquartered in New Delhi, and its branches are located in Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc. It works as a central agency that enforces counter-terrorism laws and prosecutes offenses that fall under Scheduled Offences specified by the Act.
The agency aims to investigate and prosecute offenses which potentially affect security, sovereignty and integrity of India, and its foreign relations, smuggling of large quantities of counterfeit Indian currency, and atomic or nuclear facilities. NIA also takes responsibility for implementing international treaties or agreements made in the United Nations or other international organizations to facilitate international procedures.
The goals of NIA are to uphold the values inscribed in the Constitution and abide by the law while facilitating the process of investigation and prosecution for an effective and speedy trial. NIA seeks to keep a professional relationship with governments of States and Union and other law enforcement organizations to maximize the effectiveness of cooperation through assisting them with investigations in terror cases and working as a database of all terrorists related information.
The powers and functions of NIA
National Investigation Agency is established to fight back terrors and investigate various offenses. For the agency to properly carry out its duties, it is necessary for the agency to be empowered to investigate and prosecute without unnecessary intervention of the third parties. National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 empowers the agency to investigate and prosecute. Chapter III of the NIA Act empowers the agency to investigate offences, when the agency is directed by the Central Government.
The State Government may also request Central Government to transfer the investigation to NIA. Once the investigation is transferred to the agency, the State Government and police officers under the government cannot proceed with the investigation and it is their duty to transfer all the relevant documents and data to the agency.
For the investigation of the case, officers of the agency will have same powers of the police officers with the investigation across India. The power of the agency will also have power to investigate matters outside India subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries. The agency can also into offenses that are potentially connected with the offences under the Scheduled Offence list.
As for the prosecution of NIA, the agency can prosecute scheduled offences committed through Special Courts of NIA. Special Courts, which are constituted along with the appointment of a judge by Central Government and State Government from the recommendation list provided by the Chief Justice of the High Court, have all powers of the court of sessions provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
When there are any questions regarding the jurisdiction of Special Courts, it can be referred to the Central Government and depending on the discretion of the Centre, Special Courts will have jurisdictions over such cases. Further, trials held in Special Courts will have precedence over any other trials held in courts that are not Special Court. Special Courts can also hold the trial for the offenses that are connected to the Scheduled Offences, which is provided under section 14 of the NIA Act. The trial will be carried out with the presence of a public prosecutor who will be appointed by the Central Government.
Allocations of cases to NIA
Cases are allocated to National Investigation Agency through the process of informing the higher administrative bodies until it reaches the Central Government. The local police station can inform the State Government about the case relating to Scheduled Offence which can be then forwarded to the Central Government. If the Central Government finds it to be Scheduled Offence within 15 days, the Central Government can allocate the case to NIA for investigation. Moreover, a case can be transferred from one Special Court to another.
The transfer of such cases can be done by both Supreme Court and High Court, with latter restricted to within that specific state. NIA Act has enabled the transfer of cases between Special Courts to ensure that the case is investigated and heard by the most appropriate Special Court. It has also ensured that trial of Special Courts take priority over trials in courts that are not Special Courts as cases Special Courts prosecute often are very important or serious incidents.
Relevant landmark cases
The case of State of Maharashtra vs Ravi Dhiren and Ors. is one of the important cases heard by Special Court. The case was prosecuted against the group of criminals who tried to transport large quantity of counterfeit Indian currency. The court stated that such acts threaten the unity, integrity security and sovereignty of the country and thus needs to be halted, which is specifically the reason for the existence of NIA.
The Special Court refers specifically to the evidence provided by NIA to convict the criminals. The evidence produced by NIA is documents and data collected from letters or testimonies or organizations such as banks. This case proves that NIA plays a vital role in trials held by Special Courts as the court refers to the evidence collected by the agency. It is the case that proved the function of NIA and the reason for its existence.
National Investigation Agency is an independent institution that combats terrors and other crimes which endangers security, integrity, and sovereignty of the country. Although there is dependency on the Central Government as the Centre has the discretion to transfer the case to the agency, NIA Act allows effective and speedy trial through enabling transfer of cases to ensure the issue is dealt by the most appropriate Special Court while enabling reasonable intervention of Supreme Court and High Court for the matter of equity.
Author: Byeongwoo Park from National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala