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India: New Anti-Terror Law

(Dec. 19, 2008) In the wake of the November 26, 2008, terrorist attack in Mumbai by Pakistani nationals, the Cabinet of the Indian government introduced two new bills in Parliament on December 16, 2008. One of the bills seeks to set up a National Investigation Agency (NIA) with special powers. The other amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to provide for stringent action against terrorism.

The NIA at the federal level would investigate offenses of terrorism and other acts having national security ramifications. The officers of the agency will have special powers to pursue and investigate any such offense across the country. They will have special duties, responsibilities, privileges, and liabilities. The opposition party, BJP, while supporting the bill, has stated that its formulation is a tacit recognition by the government of the opposition's longstanding demand for a tough anti-terrorism law.

The amendment provides for a detention period of 180 days and denial of bail altogether to any foreigner accused of terrorism in India. An Indian national accused of the offense would not be released on bail unless the prosecutor has had the opportunity to be heard. The bill permits authorities to freeze and seize assets of the defendant and entities engaged in or suspected of terrorism. Use of explosives, firearms, lethal weapons, or poisonous chemicals, including biological or radiological weapons, with the intention of aiding, abetting, or committing terrorist acts will be punishable with imprisonment for a maximum ten-year term.

Raising funds in India or abroad for terrorist activities would carry a punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years to life. A similar punishment for organizing terrorist training camps is also provided in the bill. (Bill to Set Up Anti‑Terror National Probe Agency Introduced, HINDUSTAN TIMES, Dec. 16, 2008, available at