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Chhattisgarh files suit against Centre in SC challenging NIA Act

Chhattisgarh files suit against Centre in SC challenging NIA Act

New Delhi: The state of Chhattisgarh has filed a suit against the Central government in the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutional validity of the National Investigation Act, 2008. Chhattisgarh has a Congress government at the moment.

This is the second time in two days that a state has filed a suit against a Central law. On Tuesday, Kerala challenged the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in the Supreme Court.

The then Manmohan Singh government had come out with the law in the aftermath of November 26, 2008, Mumbai attack, when senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was the Union Home minister.

The legislation provides NIA concurrent jurisdiction to probe terror attacks in any part of the country without any specific permission from states and in the last one decade, it has been involved in the investigation of all such cases.

The Chhattisgarh government has filed the original suit under Article 131 of the Constitution which empowers a state to move the Supreme Court directly in matters of dispute with the Centre or any other state. It is the first state to challenge the Act.

The filing of petition assumes importance as the Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government in the state has challenged the law on the ground that it was for the police to investigate scheduled offences in the state.

"The plaintiff (state) respectfully submits that the NIA Act is ultra vires to the Constitution and is beyond legislative competence of Parliament since the Act empowers the defendant (Centre) to create an agency for investigation, which, notwithstanding the NIA, is carried out by state police, which is a subject matter of the state under entry-2, List-II, Schedule 7, of the Constitution," the plea said.

The suit, filed through standing counsel of the state Sumeer Sodhi and settled by senior advocate Vivek Tankhs, said the NIA Act in its present form not only takes away the power of conducting investigation by the plaintiff (state) through police but also confers "unfettered, discretionary and arbitrary powers" on the defendant (Centre).

"Moreover, there are no rules governing the exercise of powers which gives ample discretion to the defendant to exercise its power at any juncture without providing any reason or justification for the same," the plea said.

The state government said the provision of the Act leaves no room for coordination and pre-condition of consent in any form by the Central government from the state government which clearly is against the idea of state sovereignty as envisaged under the Constitution.

"The plaintiff submits that the scheme of NIA Act is such that once brought in motion, it completely takes away the power of plaintiff to investigate the offences which have been categorised as a scheduled offence under the NIA Act and which has been committed within the jurisdiction of the State," the plea said.

It said the Act, in its essence and spirit, is not only ultra vires to the Constitution but is also against the "federal spirit as envisaged under our Constitutional scheme wherein both Centre and State are considered to be independent in their respective jurisdiction".

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