NIA: Five years on, only one case wrapped up
India's federal anti-terror agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), has completed five years but managed to successfully prosecute only one case. Experts say the top agency needs advanced scientific techniques and more courts for speedy disposal of cases.
"The record of the agency reflects that it has done too little as compared to the tall claims that were made when it was set up five years ago," senior advocate Aman Lekhi told IANS.
The agency was set up on Jan 18, 2009, in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack with the government realising the need for a central agency to combat terrorism.
NIA was created by an act of the parliament for investigating and prosecuting offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India and plays the role of the national counter-terrorism law enforcement agency.
Radha Vinod Raju was its first director-general.
So far, it has only managed to achieve a legal conclusion in the case of a bomb blast at a bus depot in Kozhikode in Kerala in 2006. Two accused, including Lashkar-e-Taiba militant T. Naseer, have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to Lekhi, the NIA has "failed" to do its job.
"We need more courts to exclusively hear NIA cases. This is the only way to solve the pending cases. But it can only achieve legal conclusion if NIA efficiently probes the cases," Lekhi said.
The advocate feels the much-hyped agency has suffered due to "lack of systematic updates" on terror outfits.
NIA is investigating over 72 cases across the country, including last year's Hyderabad blasts in which 18 people were killed and over 100 injured and the multiple Bodh Gaya blasts in which five people, including two monks, were injured.
It is also handling the 2011 Delhi High Court blasts, the David Coleman Headley connection to the Mumbai attack, the Malegaon bombings of 2006 and 2008 and the Samjhauta Express terror attack of 2007.
The arrests of Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives Yaseen Bhatkal and Abu Jundal are its top catches.
It has filed charge-sheets in around 30 cases till date.
Well-known criminal advocate and Bhatkal and Jundal's counsel M.S. Khan has demanded the introduction of advanced scientific technology during the investigation of terror cases.
"First of all, the probe agency has to identify what technology it needs. Such cases have international links. Therefore the use of advanced and modern technology will help in solving the cases fast," Khan told IANS.
Over the past several years, India has been the victim of large-scale terrorism, mostly sponsored from across the borders.
"There have been innumerable incidents of terror attacks and bomb blasts. As most of the cases have complex inter-state and international linkages it takes time to link all the angles," a senior NIA official told IANS, pleading anonymity.
The NIA has to also probe the possible connection of smuggling of arms and drugs and circulation of fake Indian currency with terror financing.
NIA counsel Ahmad Khan said that due to international linkages in the terror cases, they take a long time to investigate and achieve a legal conclusion.
"As there is no any specific court that can hear terror-related matter on a daily basis, the trial takes more time. So far only one case pertaining to a bomb explosion at a bus depot in Kozhikode has been disposed off," Khan told IANS.
However, witnesses' statements are being recorded in many cases, including that related to the Delhi High Court blasts, he added.
He demanded that exclusive courts be set up to deal with NIA cases.
"At present there are 38 Special NIA Courts. These courts have to look after other cases too. Hence, it causes more delays," Khan said.
Well-known criminal lawyer Mahmood Pracha said NIA was formed with the aim of making it a thoroughly professional investigative agency matching the best international standards.
"But, like other agencies, it is working on the same track and has failed to use advanced scientific technology, which is a major setback of NIA in solving its cases," Pracha added.
(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 16-01-2014)