NIA may join actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death probe
This section allows the government to give any officer ``the powers of a police station for the investigation of the offences under this Act’’Updated: Sep 23, 2020, 07:09 IST
The National Investigating Agency has now been cleared by the Central Government to investigate drug related cases, and senior officers in the government confirmed that this may be a precursor to the agency, originally created to deal with terror-related crimes, being asked to look at the case surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, which has since snowballed into a major probe into drug use in the film industry.
If that happens, NIA will become the fourth federal agency to get involved in the case, after the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate and the Narcotics Control Bureau.
The Ministry of Finance’s Revenue Department on Tuesday, issued a notification that said that the Centre after consulting with states ``invests the officers of and above the rank of inspectors in the NIA to exercise the powers and perform duties ‘’ according to section 53 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
This section allows the government to give any officer ``the powers of a police station for the investigation of the offences under this Act’’. NIA was established a year after the 2008 Mumbai serial blasts to specifically focus on terror related activities across the country. In an amendment to the NIA act last year, the agency was also given the jurisdiction to probe cases related to human trafficking, counterfeit notes and cyber terrorism but narcotics cases were still not in its purview -- till Tuesday’s order that’s been signed by under secretary Biswajit Sarkar.
A government official familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity that the order could “expand the ambit of the ongoing probes in the SSR case, where drugs, money laundering and national security issues have emerged.”
A second government official who asked not to be named said that the importance of the notification was that even cases which were previously only the domain of the NCB could now be handled by the NIA.
While Tuesday’s notification said that states had been consulted, a minister in the Maharashtra government said that he wasn’t aware of any communication to the effect.
The death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14 has become a political issue with the Bihar Government playing a significant role in the transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, one that the Maharashtra government criticised. While the circumstances surrounding the death are being investigated by CBI, the role of drugs in the case is being handled by the Narcotics Control Bureau . Actress and Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty is in custody for her role in an alleged ”drug syndicate’’ and for allegedly procuring drugs for the actor. ED is looking into money laundering aspects of the probe.
The second officer added that the need to issue this notification was because of a possible ``national interest’’ lead that the NIA needed to probe.
“It’s a good step especially in light of growing linkages between terror modules and drug dealers. NIA officers can effectively investigate narco-terrorism crimes. It would not have any impact on the powers of State Police since the powers of State Police Officers to investigate the NDPS Crimes hasn’t been diluted,’’ said former NIA and presently ADG (law and order) Assam, GP Singh.
Maharashtra chief secretary Sanjay Kumar said he is not aware about the Centre consulting the state government on this. “Even during my tenure as the additional chief secretary of the home department, I do not remember any such proposal,” he said.