Keep NCTC above party politics, PC tells 10 CMs

Agencies will not trample on power of states: Home Minister

Keep NCTC above party politics, PC tells 10 CMs

Showing no signs of dilution in the rules governing the controversial National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Friday wrote to chief ministers (CMs) of 10 states to keep the issue above party politics.

Chidambaram in his letter to the CMs said that power to arrest and search was “bare minimum” essential for the anti-terror organisation. This provision has come under strong criticism from the non-Congress ruled states on the ground that it would infringe on the state’s rights.

Chidambaram, who has written identical letters to the CMs opposing this clause, said he has asked Home Secretary R K Singh to convene a meeting of state police chiefs and heads of anti-terror agencies.

The NCTC, to come up under the Intelligence Bureau, is supposed to start functioning from March 1 although its launch on that day is now uncertain. The home minister said in his letter: “When engaged in counter terrorism operations, the officers must have the power to arrest and the power to search which are the bare minimum powers that would be necessary... Before we take the next steps, I have asked the home secretary to call (the) meeting... and discuss in detail the scope and functions of the NCTC.”

Chidambaram, however, rejected the charge that NCTC infringed on the rights of the states and said  the agency derives its powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 that was amended in 2008. “When the Bill was introduced in December 2008 to amend the Act, it was passed by both houses of Parliament. There was no demur or opposition,” he said in the letter.

Chief ministers of Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh charging that certain provisions of NCTC had trampled on the powers of the states.

Singh wrote back to them on Thursday saying he has asked the home minister to address their concerns. Chidambaram’s letter comes a day after the PM wrote to the agitated CMs.

Chidambaram enclosed a note along with his letter elaborating the genesis, objectives, structure and powers of the NCTC and asked the chief ministers to “carefully consider it.”

The minister said the intention of the central government was to continue to work with the state governments “in order to meet the challenge of terrorism.”  

“The powers conferred under Section 43(A) of the Act must be read with the duty under Section 43 (B) to produce the person or article without unnecessary delay before the nearest police station (which will be under the state government), and the SHO of the police station will take further action in accordance with the provisions of the CrPC,” he said.

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