In a radical proposal that can change the way anti-terror probes are done in the country, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has asked the government to give it official powers to carry out undercover operations on terrorist outfits, sources told HT.
After watching Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Gujarat police officials getting chargesheeted in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, wherein an undercover operation of the IB came under a CBI probe, the NIA wants legal protection before launching any such operations.
“The agency has suggested to the government that the NIA Act, which governs its working, should be suitably amended for allowing its officials to launch undercover operations,” said a home ministry official.
NIA sources said that as of now Indian law doesn’t differentiate between an undercover operator becoming part of criminal conspiracy to unravel it and a real conspirator, therefore both can be charged with the same offence. In USA and UK, the law recognises a genuine undercover operation and provides legal protection to officers who infiltrate terrorist or criminal outfits for the purpose of gathering evidence.
“In absence of legal protection for undercover operators, sometimes law enforcement agencies are tempted to fabricate evidence to prove its charges against terror suspects, which results in collapse of trial against them. If undercover operations are given legal sanctity it may help in better prosecution of terror suspects with strong evidence being brought against them in the court,” said an anti-terror investigator.
The NIA has proposed that undercover operations will be undertaken by specially-trained NIA officers above the rank of sub-inspector who will work under an officer of the rank of superintendent of police or above.
A false identity will be created for the officer to enable him to infiltrate an ongoing terror conspiracy and then arrest the accused in order to counter threats to national security.
“The NIA has suggested to the government that if the experiment with the NIA turns out to be successful, then officers of other law enforcement agencies can also be brought under the legal cover for such operations but only for terror related cases,” said the official.