• December 28, 2018, 5:52 pm


The National Investigation Agency got 12-day custody of the 10 alleged members of an Islamic State-inspired module that “planned” to target political leaders and security and government installations by carrying out explosions and ‘fidayeen’ attacks in the National Capital Region.


National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India. It acts as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency. The NIA aims to set the standards of excellence in counter terrorism and other national security related investigations at the national level by developing into a highly trained, partnership oriented workforce.


With certain crimes often having an interstate or international dimension, it is incredibly difficult for a law enforcement body to prevent or investigate such offences if it has limited jurisdiction. A national body that can coordinate and oversee the investigation and enforcement of criminal activities that have national or cross-border repercussions is essential. In addition, in order to prevent such offences from occurring in the first place, substantial information sharing and comprehensive intelligence gathering across many jurisdictions has to take place. State law enforcement agencies, with their limited jurisdictions, cannot do this alone. In the absence of a national mechanism, prevention and investigation of all-India crime will remain uncertain and ad hoc.This necessitated the creation of NIA.NIA was created after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as need for a central agency to combat terrorism was realised. NIA aims at creating deterrence for existing and potential terrorist groups/individuals. It aims to develop as a storehouse of all terrorist related information.


The Agency has been empowered to conduct investigation and prosecution of offences under the Acts specified in the Schedule of the NIA Act. A State Government may request the Central Government to hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided the case has been registered for the offences as contained in the schedule to the NIA Act. Central Government can also order NIA to take over investigation of any scheduled offense anywhere in the India. Officers of the NIA who are drawn from the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service, state police, Income Tax as well as officers from the Central Armed Police Forces, have all powers, privileges and liabilities which the police officers have in connection with investigation of any offense.


The conviction rate of this anti-terrorism agency is currently 95 per cent as it has managed to convict 167 accused in the 185 cases registered by it since its inception. During this short period of existence, NIA have been faced with the dual challenge of building a new institution and simultaneously investigating complex cases of terrorism, insurgency, terror funding having all India and international ramifications.

NIA has been a silent, almost invisible contributor to the quieting of the terror-escape in India. It has done some remarkable investigations in the North Eastern States and have contributed in a significant manner to ushering of peace in the region. It has  also helped in unearthing  larger conspiracy behind the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai and are working in concert with other law enforcement and security agencies to bring the offenders to justice.


The constitutional basis for the creation of the NIA remains a matter of debate. The areas of policing and public order lie within the exclusive legislative competence of the States and not with the Centre. States would be extremely chary of accepting or cooperating with any agency that encroached on that power thereby defeating its main objective as national agency.

The scope of what the NIA will investigate is paradoxically insufficient and potentially too broad. The NIA is not empowered to investigate a number of interstate and trans-national crimes that require a national response. For example, human trafficking, drug trafficking, cyber crime and organized crime are not included in the Schedule of Offences to the NIA Act.

Given the desperate need for quick responses to crisis situations, and in this age of electronic communication, it is unclear why the Act does not compel the State government to forward the report within 24 hours and to provide the Central government with a much shorter window of time within which to make their determination.

The scheme of the Act is based on the Central government first making a determination that an event on the ground is actually a Scheduled Offence and then secondly, deciding whether it wishes to direct the NIA to investigate it. These determinations are made by the political executive rather than the professional expert .

NIA has the power to investigate throughout India any offences listed in the attached schedule. However, the NIA has not been given the necessary powers to prevent the enumerated offences. In order for any law enforcement agency to properly prevent crime, it requires more than simply powers of investigation and enforcement.

The NIA has no officers specialising in cyber surveillance, explosives or tracing chemicals and has been forced to ask companies to decrypt computers recovered at crime scenes.


The establishment of NIA is no doubt a positive step in fighting terrorism-related crimes, but it is unlikely to be a panacea to prevent terrorist attacks. For, it will be an agency that investigates and prosecutes only after terrorist attacks take place. Though the NIA no doubt would contribute to a better understanding of how the attacks were planned and carried out, the linkages between terrorist cells within the country as well as outside, the modus operandi of terrorist cells and groups, etc., it is unlikely to prevent terrorist attacks. What will be needed is greater co-ordination between various agencies engaged in intelligence collection, collation and analysis. This can be achieved either through a more effective functioning of the Joint Intelligence Council (JIC) or alternatively by reorganising the entire Indian intelligence set up along the lines that the United States has done in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks.