M A I N   N E W S

NCTC: Centre convenes meeting of Chief Secys, DGPs on March 9
Why not CMs, asks Naveen Patnaik; shoots off protest letter to PM
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 29
In a clear message that he would stick to his stand on the scope of powers to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today asserted that without having the power to arrest, the NCTC would be handicapped in its counter-terrorism efforts.

He hoped that the row over setting up of the body would be resolved when top administrators and police officials from across the country would sit down on March 9 and do some brainstorming.

As many as 14 Chief Ministers of non-Congress-ruled states have protested against the NCTC’s powers to arrest and also that it was positioned under the Intelligence Bureau — a body that is not answerable to legislative authority.

The launch of the NCTC, slated for March 1, has been put on hold as states felt the counter-terror body usurped their powers and was an ‘attack on the federal structure envisaged under the Constitution’.

Addressing his monthly press conference, Chidambaram, in response to a question on if there was a middle path between the Centre’s stance and that of the states, said, “I am confident that this meeting (on March 9) will find a way forward. Let us hope that it will find a way forward”.

Union Home Secretary RK Singh will conduct the meeting for which all Chief Secretaries, state Home Secretaries along with the DGPs and heads of anti-terror squads have been invited to the national capital. They will discuss the scope and functions of the NCTC.

Asked if he would be meeting the Chief Ministers, Chidambaram said, “Let us see the outcome of the meeting of officials.”

Later in the evening, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik shot off a protest letter to the Prime Minister saying that there was a need to have a meeting of Chief Ministers on the subject and not DGPs and Chief Secretaries.

Explaining the need to have powers to arrest for the NCTC, Chidambaram said, “These are bare minimum powers.”

The powers will be only with the operational wing of the NCTC and not its other two wings. “Without such powers, the NCTC will not be able to do counter-terrorism operations,” Chidambaram said.

The powers to arrest also laid down the procedure as to how the arrested person has to be handed over to the local police. The station house officer (SHO) would carry out proceedings under the relevant provisions of the CrPC, the Home Minister explained.

Section 43 (B) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) lays down these rules for the NCTC.

The Home Minister also rejected suggestions that having the NCTC under the IB would expose the IB to judicial review, saying “We do not anticipate any difficulty. The IB has studied the matter in detail.”

On the formation of the NCTC, Chidambaram said, “I am a very patient man. I have been patient since November 2009 and I am willing to be patient for some more time.” On how long he would be patient, he said "as long as it is necessary". This is being seen as an indication that he was ready to listen to the states while being firm about the role of the NCTC and its powers.

On Tuesday last, the PM had written to the Chief Ministers assuring them that the Centre was committed to protecting the principles of federalism. He said the NCTC would be located within the Intelligence Bureau which "coordinates counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country. It was for this reason that the NCTC had been located within the IB and not as a separate organisation."





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