M A I N   N E W S

Opposition CMs reject anti-terror body despite amendments
* Say it’ll violate principle of federalism
* Some Cong-ruled states share concern
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
More than a year and two amendments later, the much-debated National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) today faced the same Opposition from states as it did last year, raising questions within the security establishment on whether terrorism can be countered without a cohesive pan-India anti-terror body and a policy.

Chief Ministers said they feared the move would violate the principle of federalism. This time around, some Congress-ruled states joined the Opposition to seek a ‘caveat’ and ‘safeguards’ against misuse of powers by officers in the proposed NCTC. Till late in the evening, the Ministry of Home Affairs had not given its response to what the CMs had said while opposing the NCTC.

The NCTC is proposed as a federal anti-terror agency. The proposal for its setting up came in the wake of the November 26, 2008 terrorist strike in Mumbai. The Multi Agency Centre -- an information-sharing body set up after the Mumbai attacks -- shall be subsumed to be a part of the NCTC. A discussion on NCTC was on the agenda of the day-long Chief Minister’s conference on internal security here today. Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “There is a need for coordinated efforts by Central and state agencies to deal with terrorism and other security challenges.”

However, in an encore of last year, Gujarat, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu opposed the setting up of the counter-terrorism body. Reasons against it included a fear that the move would violate the principle of federalism enshrined under the Constitution and it would “usurp” powers of the states.

Among those opposing NCTC was Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. He termed it as a “direct interference in the federal structure of the country besides giving a power to the Centre to tactically intervene in the internal affairs of states”.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said NCTC had "serious flaws" and "arbitrary" provisions and suggested the Centre seek Parliament's nod through a wider debate for creating the federal anti-terror agency. “Firstly, what is the use of creating an operation division within the NCTC and giving powers of conducting such operations?” he asked.

Nitish’s Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh said, “Amendments made to the NCTC are welcome, but some issues remain. The NCTC should be ratified by Parliament.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi opposed the body and termed it a “poorly conceived” idea. “The new draft circulated has taken into consideration some of the concerns raised by the states. However, some concerns remain. We have strong reservations about the proposed structure and functioning of the NCTC.”

At least three Chief Ministers of Congress-rules states wanted safeguards. Newly elected Karnataka Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah said, “Safeguards are necessary so that the NCTC does not get unbridled powers.” His Maharashtra counterpart Prithviraj Chavan sought ‘clarity’ on how the NCTC would conduct joint operations with states and suggested “it required further examination”. Assam CM Tarun Gogoi wanted a ‘caveat’ to involve the states more.

These objections came despite the MHA having modified the original NCTC memorandum issued on February 3, 2012, which was held in abeyance. Last year, the states had two key objections: The NCTC should not be under the Intelligence Bureau and it should not conduct operations on its own in any state.

The objection had stemmed from use of Section 43 (A) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which states: A person (suspect) may be arrested by any officer of the designated authority.

As per the February 3 office memorandum issued by the Union Home Ministry, the operations wing of the NCTC, placed under the IB, was the ‘designated authority’. This gave the NCTC pan-India powers of arrest. Now, the MHA modified this.

The proposed NCTC will be headed by a Director-General rank officer who will report to the Union Home Ministry. Secondly, operations will be carried out either through the state police or in conjunction with the state police.

The proposed NCTC will draw up plans and coordinate actions for counter terrorism, to integrate intelligence pertaining to terrorism and analyse the same.





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