PM reaches out to CMs on NCTC

PM reaches out to CMs on NCTC

Says Chidambaram will consult states to address their concerns

PM reaches out to CMs on NCTC

 A question mark hangs over the March 1 launch of the controversial National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday wrote to the chief ministers attempting to allay their fears that the organisation hurts federalism.

With barely over a week to go for functioning of the new anti-terror body to start, Singh told chief ministers he would ask home minister P Chidambaram to address the issues raised by them suitably “in consultation with you and other Chief Ministers."
This, in other words, may mean that the NCTC would all but be kept on hold although official sources insisted that it was not so.

There is also a proposal that the home ministry is seriously considering: it may convene a meeting of Chief Secretaries and Directors General of police of all states to explain about NCTC as early as next week.

It could be followed by a conference of the chief ministers.

The issue also came up on a day when the Opposition parties grilled Union Home Secretary R K Singh at a Parliamentary standing committee meeting.

Non-UPA members demanded at the meeting – it was not on the agenda – that the NCTC be kept in abeyance until a consensus was found on various controversial issues.
The issue is also likely to figure when West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee meets Singh on Wednesday.

Flag of revolt

All the non-Congress chief ministers have written to the prime minister opposing the anti-federal provisions of the NCTC, but it was Banerjee, along with her Odisha counterpart Navin Patnaik, was the first to raise the issue as she launched an attack on the Union government saying that through NCTC, it was out to trample on the federal structure of the Constitution and take away rights of the states. The chief ministers have pointed out that NCTC has been vested with the power to make arrests or searches in terrorism-hit states without seeking permission from their governments.

The prime minister, in identical letters to the chief ministers, sought to allay their fears. “As you may be aware, the idea of such a centre has been under consideration by Government since the Group of Ministers report of 2001 suggested a Joint Task Force on Intelligence and the report was accepted by the Government of the day.

“It was also suggested by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that a National Centre for Counter Terrorism be established.”

He added: “In forming the NCTC, it is not the Government's intent in any way to affect the basic features of the Constitutional provisions and allocation of powers between the States and the Union. 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 organisation.

“I have, however, 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.”