The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered an "all-time high" of 73 cases in 2022 even as it is working to undertake a "whole of ecosystem" approach to dismantle the terrorist networks that aim to harm India, officials said Saturday. They also said that the agency was "pressing on the pedal" to get extradited gangster Goldy Brar, the prime accused in the murder of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala.
There were reports of his detention in the US recently but agency sources said those were "unconfirmed" reports. An Interpol arrest warrant is alive against him, and his visa in Canada has expired. Efforts are on to get him back to India to face the law, they said. The federal anti-terrorist investigation agency has released the year-end figures of its action saying the cases filed by it under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and some other IPC sections covered a spectrum of crimes, including 'Jihadi terror', gangster-terror-drug smugglers nexus, terrorist funding, and FIRs against the now banned Islamic organisation PFI or the Popular Front of India.
"The NIA has registered 73 cases in 2022 which is a 19.67 per cent increase from the 61 cases registered in 2021 and is an all-time high for the agency," a spokesperson for the agency said. On average, about 60 cases were filed by the agency in 2019 and 2020, officials said. Among the cases registered this year include 35 cases of 'Jihadi' terror in J&K, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal, 10 cases related to Left Wing Extremism (LWE), five cases related to insurgents in the northeast, seven cases related to the PFI, three cases of gangster-terror-drug smuggler nexus, one case of terror funding, and two related to fake Indian currency notes (FICN), the spokesperson said.
The agency also filed a total of 59 chargesheets against 368 persons during the year, as per official data. "Judgements have been pronounced in 38 cases in 2022, all of which have ended in conviction. 109 persons have been convicted to rigorous imprisonment and fine and six life sentences have also been awarded," the data said. The overall conviction rate for the agency currently stands at 94.39 per cent, it said. Officials said the agency was working on an "ecosystem kind of approach" and working in coordination with other central probe agencies and state organisations so that the entire terrorist infrastructure is dismantled.
"It is the vision of the Union home minister (Amit Shah) that the NIA should undertake an 'agency-like approach' and not just like a police station. This approach, like the FBI of the US, mandates a wider and extensive approach towards terror crimes and its modus operandi," a senior NIA officer said. The agency, created in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has also increased its "geographical footprints" within the country as its branches have gone up to 18 now and this is expected to touch the two dozen mark by the next year, the officer said.
We are getting more manpower and looking to establish two full-fledged verticals to tackle cyber terrorism and human trafficking, he said. The agency officials said the NIA was also registering "offshoot cases" where terrorist links emerge during the course of investigation by the state police or any other central agency. It is part of our new standard operating procedure (SOP) that we get associated with any terror-like case from the beginning so that if it comes to us at a later stage, we are aware of its track, the evidence, and other inputs, they said.
The agency was also undertaking investigations that have cross-border ramifications and require the sleuths to travel to that country. "For such probes, the NIA takes the help of the ministry of home and external affairs and we have, and we would, travel to those countries where our investigations are linked to," they said. As per the official data, the NIA arrested 456 people this year including 19 absconders. Two accused were arrested upon deportation and one accused after extradition, it said.
In 2022, eight persons were designated as individual terrorists under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the data said.