M A I N   N E W S

PM steps in to allay CMs’ fears on anti-terror body
Ajay Banerjee & Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Srinagar, Feb 21
With a host of Chief Ministers attacking the Centre's move to set up an anti-terror body, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today wrote to them, saying states' powers will not be affected.

He also asked Home Minister P Chidambaram to hold talks with the state governments. The PM's letter was addressed to the seven Chief Ministers, who had voiced their opposition to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in separate letters to him.

The PM's letter came on a day when a Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs said it would suggest the NCTC be put on hold. Members of the Committee posed tough questions to Home Secretary R K Singh. He was asked how the Centre could decide unilaterally on setting up the counter-terrorism body without consulting states.

Sources said the Opposition members told committee chairman and BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu that he should recommend to the Home Ministry that the proposal be put on hold.

In his letter, the PM sought to remind the BJP that the NDA government led by it had accepted the idea of NCTC in 2001 on the basis of a report of group of ministers. "It (the NCTC) has been under consideration by the Government since the Group of Ministers' report in 2001 suggested a Joint Task Force on Intelligence and the report was accepted by the government of the day," said the PM.

Three of the protesting Chief Ministers — Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) — were NDA partners in 2001. The other four CMs — from Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Bihar — are from non-UPA-ruled states.

On Tuesday, another Congress ally, the National Conference, also appeared to have reservations over the NCTC formation.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while stressing the importance of consultations between the Centre and the state Governments said in Budgam, central Kashmir, that there had been no discussions with the Centre on the subject. One of the issues raised by the states was placing the NCTC under the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which is not under legislative control. "The primary purpose of the NCTC is to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country, as the IB has been doing so far. It is for this reason that the NCTC has been located within the IB and not as a separate organization," the PM reasoned out. “I have noted your concerns about the manner in which the NCTC will function and am asking the Home Minister to address them suitably, in consultation with you and other Chief Ministers," the PM's letter said.

Source said the government has done enough home work to address the states' concerns. The first point that the Home Minister will raise is on operational powers to the NCTC under section 43 (A) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967, amended and passed with unanimity by both House of Parliament in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

This says a suspect may be arrested by any officer of the designated authority. The operations wing of the NCT has such powers. This is the only power of arrest enjoyed by the NCTC. Section 43 (A) was inserted in the UAPA in 2008 and duly approved.

The second is the move to set up the NCTC is correct under Article 73 of the Constitution. This lays down the extent of power of Parliament to frame laws for states.

The third point is the NCTC structure: it will have a central council. The director and three joint directors of NCTC and the heads of the anti-terrorist organisations of each state will be represented in it. 




NCTC faced hurdles right from Day 1
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 21
In the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, a distraught nation was vociferously demanding a strong anti-terror mechanism.

Not only did Union Home Chidambaram announce the proposal to form the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), but also he set a target that it would be operationalised by the end of 2010. The same NCTC with its pan-India powers that now faces stiff opposition from 14-odd Chief Ministers of non-Congress ruled states.

He stressed, “I am clear in my mind that without ‘operations’, NCTC and the security architecture that is needed will be incomplete.”

Now, more than two years down the line, it is these very powers to carry out pan-India operations that have led to a hue and cry raised by Chief Ministers of 14 non-Congress ruled states.

Right from the start, the NCTC had a stormy beginning. Before this onslaught by the Chief Ministers, the proposal for restructuring hit several roadblocks in the Prime Minister’s office, the Defence Ministry and also the Finance Ministry - all three have very powerful intelligence agencies under them.

The Home Ministry’s original plan was submitted as a discussion paper to the PMO and to members of the Cabinet Committee on Security in April 2010. This talked about a single-point anti-terror body holding control over various operational and intelligence wings arms of the government. It was expectedly shot down.

The Home Minister wanted that the role and positioning of Research and Analysis Wing, Aviation Research Centre and the Central Bureau of Investigation - all under the PM - be re-examined and a way be found to place them under the oversight of NCTC on matters of terrorism.

Originally, the Home Ministry said the intelligence agencies of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance would continue to remain under the respective ministries, but their representatives would have to be necessarily deputed to the NCTC.

All this was like a red flag as it was assumed that the Home Minister would emerge very powerful and disturb the matrix. Since its creation in 1968, the RAW was placed under the PM. Indira Gandhi, probably wary of her powerful Home Minister YB Chavan, had done so, said observers. The Home Ministry’s move was seen within the government as a shift in the power centre from the PMO to the Home Minister.

A fresh proposal was drafted and nothing moved till July 2011. Chidambaram rallied hard and got a clearance from CCS but only for a largely watered down version of the original proposal. The new proposal is a truncated version of the original plan of an all-powerful NCTC controlling the levers of power across ministries. It will function under the IB and report to the Home Secretary and the Home Minister. Even that is under attack. (To be continued)


n States should have been consulted and taken into confidence.

n Law & order is a state subject

n The best ‘Intelligence’ available from local police stations

n Provisions draconian and arbitrary

n Goes against the federal structure

n Will create more confusion and friction

n States will be left to manage the fallout of actions taken by NCTC

n NCTC can be misused by the Centre against states ruled by the opposition





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