taking up AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s call for a division and saying this would help establish who was against measures to strengthen national security.
The amendment bill, which strengthens and widens the scope of the investigating agency, was passed with just six dissenting votes as no party, including SP, BSP, Trinamool, Congress and DMK, took a position against the legislation. It was left to individuals and some like the AIMIM to vote against.
Typically, the government does not seek a vote on legislations moved by it. But Shah sought to make a political point by taking up Owaisi’s demand for a formal vote as against a voice vote on the ground that it was necessary that the country should know who stood in favour of and against terrorism.
Even though Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and DMK’s T R Baalu sought a voice vote, Speaker Om Birla ruled in favour of a division and said every member had the right to demand a vote.
Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan was among those who signed a voting slip, but was later seen taking it back from the Lok Sabha staff. The NIA Amendment Bill, 2019, was subsequently passed with 278 votes in favour and six against.
Speaking on the bill, Shah said, "Terrorism has no religion, no caste, no gender. It is against humanity. The government will take all stakeholders along in fighting terrorism in a zero tolerance policy."
The amendment bill allows NIA to probe terror cases targeting Indians and Indian assets abroad, empowers the Centre to designate existing sessions courts as special NIA courts, and extends the scope of the investigating agency to probe offences related to cyber crime, human trafficking, counterfeit currency and sale of prohibited arms, among others.
Amid concerns that the amendments will turn the country into a police state, Shah assured the House that the bill was only aimed at eliminating terrorism and that the Modi government will ensure it is not misused. He also said the government will take action against perpetrators of terror related crimes regardless of religion.
Shah also asserted that allegations of misuse of Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act were incorrect. He said the UPA government’s decision to repeal POTA was a political one taken by Congress to appease its vote bank. “In my opinion, POTA should not have been repealed. Between 2004 and 2008, instances of terrorism increased so much that the UPA was forced to bring the NIA Act in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks,” Shah said.
The minister also emphasised the need for unanimity in the House on the issue of terrorism. “If there is no unanimity, it will give strength to the terrorists. This is a law to defeat terrorists and this bill is an important message to the people of India, the world as well as to terrorists,” he said, appealing for the bill to be passed unanimously.