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The parts of the sum

The contest between state and central investigative agencies is hampering justice.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2011 23:08 IST

It is rather rich to find Pakistan giving us a finger wag when it comes to pursuing investigations related to terrorism. Yet, the way the Indian authorities have been going about their investigations into the terror attacks reportedly conducted by a network of Hindu fundamentalists from 2006 to 2008 gives the handle for the proverbial pot to call the kettle black. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was created after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 with the purpose of it being a central agency empowered to deal with terror-related crimes across states. Apart from bypassing the bumps and rumbles of Centre-state politics, the NIA opened shop in 2009 to be a single-window investigative body for terror-related crimes. So far, evident from the manner in which investigations are being conducted into the Samjhauta Express, Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Modasa blasts cases, this has hardly been the case.

The fault for this embarrassing confusion lies not in the NIA being lax about its job but in the state investigative authorities being proactively uncooperative with the central body. Whether conducting parallel questionings of witnesses — thereby undermining the NIA's authority and unduly harassing witnesses — or, as is the case in Madhya Pradesh where the state police investigating into the murder of an RSS pracharak has no answer for the disappearance of two key accused, it has been a tale of bumbling and petty one-upmanship. Instead of a concerted effort to bring terrorists to justice, we are witnessing an infantile contest between states and the Centre.

Two features of the NIA Act were to fix and strengthen the symbiotic relationship between state investigation bodies and the central NIA: one, a state government shall extend all assistance to NIA for investigation of terror-related offences; two, provisions of the Act with regard to investigation shall not affect powers of state governments to investigate and prosecute any terror crime or other offences. If the first feature is to encourage stronger cooperation between the two levels of investigators, the second is to ensure that the state investigation bodies are allowed to play their due parts in the process. This isn't only about getting to the bottom of 'Hindu terror'. It's also about tackling terrorism in a concerted manner. The NIA must be allowed to function as a one-stop shop with other agencies providing it the much necessary assistance. Terrorists don't see their adversary as disparate blocks of the Indian State. So why should they whose job is to investigate terrorism-related cases?