Chidambaram Was Unsure Of NIA’s Constitutionality: Wikileaks

P Chidambaram and Robert Mueller

NEW DELHI, Mar 19: A US Embassy cable accessed by The Hindu says, that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told FBI Director Robert Mueller that National Investigation Agency‘s powers could be challenged in the courts as violating constitutional provisions on Centre-State relations.

The Hindu through WikiLeaks quotes Mr. Chidambaram telling the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller at a meeting in New Delhi on March 3, 2009 that he was coming ‘perilously close to crossing constitutional limits’ in empowering the NIA. He explained the concept of a ‘federal’ crime does not exist in India, with law and order the responsibility of the state governments,” Charge d’Affaires Steven White cabled about the meeting.

The NIA came into existence after Parliament passed the National Investigation Agency Bill within a month of 26/11 attacks, under which it can supersede the State police in the investigation and trial of offences related to terrorist acts such as hijacking, bomb blasts, attacks on nuclear installations and others challenging the country’s sovereignty and integrity.

Explaining that federal law enforcement agencies had to seek the permission of State governments to become involved in an investigation, he “opined that the NIA law would be challenged in court because it ascribes certain investigating powers to the NIA which may be seen to conflict with responsibility that is exclusively with the states.”

The Bill was hurriedly passed by Parliament along with new counter-terrorism legislation, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008.

There were few dissenting voices when the NIA Bill was debated. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) suggested an amendment to make mandatory the association of the State government in the investigation and trial of offences.

But there was not adequate deliberation and Parliament cleared it within four days of its introduction, egged on by P Chidambaram who told the Rajya Sabha: “People are looking at us. As I speak today, people are watching us. People will watch us on television tomorrow. People are asking, ‘Is this the Parliament of India the sentinel on TV? Is the Parliament of India an appropriate sentinel to guard our liberty?”

Samjhauta blast and David Headley cases are being investigated by the NIA. The Centre is thinking of whether to hand over to the NIA, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blast probes.

(Courtesy: Agencies)

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