HM Amit Shah during the debate in Lok Sabha (image: twitter)

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeking to broaden the powers of the anti-terrorism agency to investigate terror attacks targeting Indians and Indian interests abroad.

Besides this, the amendments will allow the NIA to probe cybercrimes and human trafficking cases.

The NIA was established in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people. Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been insisting on giving more powers to the NIA to tackle fresh challenges.

However, the opposition fired a debate over the changes in the law with the AIMIM lawmaker from Hyderabad Asaddin Owaisi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah coming at loggerheads. The BJP chief maintained that he is not frightening anyone but cannot help when someone has fear in their minds.

“Let me make it clear. The Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism but we will also not look at the religion of the accused while taking action,” Shah said.

Defending the bill, Shah countered opposition claims over “misuse” of the NIA law, claiming that the Narendra Modi-led government will never misuse it on the grounds of religion but will seek to ensure that the problem of terrorism is nipped in the bud, whichever religion the guilty may belong to.

He also targeted the previous Congress-led UPA government for revoking anti-terror act POTA, which he claimed was done to save the Congress’ vote bank, rather than prevent a misuse. Further, he argued how the UPA government first repealed the POTA only to enforce the NIA later under the terror attack situation.

Meanwhile, the opposition contended that the law would make India a police state and was susceptible to misuse. However, the government denied the claim, suggesting that such a situation would never arise.

Shah, seeking the support of all parties, urged that such division should not arise in the interest of the nation as it would only boost the morale of the terrorists. He said that the Parliament should speak in one voice to send a message to terrorists and the world.

The Amendment Bill, however, would need to be passed by the Rajya Sabha as well and cleared by President Ram Nath Kovind before it gets enforced.

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