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Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

India to tighten anti-terror laws

An Indian police officer stands guard at India Gate in New Delhi on December 17, 2008.
Indian security forces are under pressure after the attacks

The lower house of the Indian parliament has approved two new anti-terror bills following last month's attacks in the city of Mumbai (Bombay).

One of them proposes setting up a National Investigation Agency with sweeping powers of investigation.

The second strengthens existing anti-terror laws to allow suspects to be detained without bail for up to six months on the orders of a judge.

Correspondents say the bill is likely to pass in the upper house as well.

It will be put to the vote on Friday.

The opposition BJP supported the bills in Wednesday's votes but said that the provisions in the legislation should have been stronger.

Phone taps

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that India's government has been under intense pressure following the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks to reform the country's intelligence and security systems.

The new bills introduced in parliament are seen as a first step in its response.

The National Investigation Agency would have wide-ranging powers to investigate terror cases across the country.

However, demands that the security forces be allowed to tap phone and internet lines without court orders have been rejected.

And confessions by suspects before police officers cannot be used as evidence in court.

India's home minister, P Chidambaram, said the bill balances the ability of the security agencies to prosecute with the need to protect individual freedom and human rights.

The Congress-led government scrapped a previous anti-terror law following criticism that it was misused and targeted the Muslim community.

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