PC pitches for NCTC's 'limited powers'

Meetings with police chiefs and CMs in offing to resolve conflict

The “limited powers” accorded to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) are not injurious to the country’s federal structure as the anti-terror body will have to produce an arrested person at the nearest police station, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said here on Wednesday.

Arguing in favour of NCTC, which is currently on hold due to opposition from chief ministers of various states, Chidambaram hoped that the issue will be resolved in a meeting of directors-general of police, chiefs of state anti-terror squads and state chief secretaries, convened by the home secretary. The meeting is expected to be held in the first half of March and followed by a meeting of chief ministers in April.

“I am confident that a way forward will be found”, the home minister said.

Meanwhile, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday stating that a meeting of chief ministers was critical rather than discussing the NCTC with state DGPs. “I am disappointed to find, Sir, that a meeting has been called by the union home secretary with state directors general of police,” Patnaik wrote.

Stating that the NCTC issue was raised by several chief ministers including him, Patnaik said: “The matter relates to national security, terrorism and extremism which require deliberation with us at the highest level. All of us know about the effects of terrorism, the clear examples of which are attacks in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.

“It is imperative that instead of a meeting chaired by the union home secretary, an immediate meeting of chief ministers may be called by you to address the concerns of the states on this very urgent matter regarding the security of the nation,” he said.

Ten chief ministers, on February 20, opposed the organisation, powers and functions of the NCTC saying it militates against the federal structure enunciated in the Constitution.

Overriding powers

Allaying the apprehensions of the states on NCTC having draconian powers to search, seize and arrest, besides  seek confidential information, Chidambaram said the anti-terror body will be governed by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, under which Section 43 (A) and 43 (B) do the balancing act.

  While the former provision gives NCTC powers to arrest, the latter makes it mandatory to produce the arrested before police station and court at the earliest.
   The powers will be wielded by senior officials.

Asked if the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which houses the NCTC will come under the direct scrutiny of courts, the minister said “only operational wing” will be given powers of arrest.

The NCTC has overriding powers to demand any information from any agency in the country as also to requisition any special force, including National Security Guards, in the country. The Centre has made it obligatory for all civil authorities in India and those working abroad to “act in aid of the NCTC”.

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