The Net Drags
- NIA set up specially to probe terror cases post-26/11
- Experts say it has failed to live up to expectations. Relies on the police for its basic investigation.
- Not keeping apace with data upgrades to help facilitate probes
- Looking at key cases but no conclusive evidence dug up
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up with the express intention of probing terror-related cases three years ago, is fast turning out to be a white elephant. Set up in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, it’s already come in for much flak. Former IB director Ajit Doval says the NIA was conceived with a “doctrinal flaw”—that merely an investigation-oriented set-up, even if it brings high skills and dedicated facilities, could account for more terrorist arrests. “The reality was ignored that it also needed continuous updated institutional knowledge of terror outfits, their inter-relationships, active modules, ever-changing modus operandi, overground links, finances, communications, weapons sources etc. This gaping knowledge chasm makes the agency draw simplistic inferences that often come unstuck. They also need a constantly upgraded back-up database. Right now, the NIA is just event-focused... it’s not likely to take them far,” he says.
The NIA came into existence on January 18, 2009, with Radha Vinod Raju as its first director-general, and was primed to accomplish important tasks under the Union home ministry’s action plan. Last fiscal, `16.33 crore was allocated to the organisation. The NIA was tasked with filling up all vacant posts and also finalising issues like setting up of special courts like those for the CBI. Nearly 100 posts were created last year.
But the results have been rather patchy. Says J.P Dutt, ex-DG of the NSG (who handled the Mumbai terror attacks), “The way they operate raises certain questions. They should prove cases by collecting vital evidence. Only that will lead to culprits being apprehended and convictions. We also need good investigators to support the concept of NIA and make it successful.”
Currently, the agency is probing 30 crucial terror cases, including the recent Delhi HC blasts, the David Coleman Headley episode, the Malegaon blasts of ’06 and ’08, and the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts. Only three of these are “original cases”, in all others, it is playing second fiddle to state agencies and assisting them in informal ways. Which has led to another charge—whether the ‘premier’ agency is actually under-utilised?
Despite being formed to be the main agency to probe terror cases, it has never been given full charge soon after an attack. In most cases, forensics and other investigations are done by the local police before it is referred to the agency. “The NIA was a good idea badly executed,” says Doval. Internally, sources say, the NIA still hasn’t developed specialised teams to keep a dedicated watch on different terror groups. “Despite the country’s long experience and expertise in handling terrorism, the NIA functions as if others are novices trying to reinvent the wheel. Some of the states with strong counter-terror cells are doing much better as they understand terrorism better,” Doval adds.
Former NIA director-general Radha Vinod Raju, though, says that analysing NIA’s record at this stage “is unfair”. “The agency is just three years old whereas a premier investigative agency like the CBI is 50. We have a small team and we are trying to build it up in a way wherein everyone gets an agency that would have expertise and support to deal with issues related to terrorism and terror attacks,” he says.