In an unexpected move by the chief ministers of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) members, crucial alliance partners — Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and National Conference — have openly come out against the implementation of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) at the long-awaited meeting of state heads.
Even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his opening remarks, tried to emphasise that NCTC, in its design and operational aspects, would supplement the counter-terrorism capabilities of states and not supplant them but UPA allies along with the Opposition-ruled state governments have categorically said such an anti-terror organisation would upset the federal structure and it was not acceptable.
“It is not our government’s intention in any way to affect the distribution of powers between states and the Union government that our Constitution provides. The establishment of NCTC is not a state versus centre issue. The primary purpose behind setting up the NCTC is to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout this vast country,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his opening remarks to the chief ministers.
The first attack on Union home minister P Chidambaram’s project came from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who said that powers given to NCTC to search, seize and arrest would “greatly affect” the constitutionally mandate federal structure of the country.
“It is unfortunate that in utter disregard to federal principles, the NCTC was set up by an executive order dated of home ministry without adequate consultations with states. These unilateral steps of the union government in matters that fall within the jurisdictions of the states increases the trust-deficit between the centre and states,” Mamata Banerjee told the gathering.
Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah also joined Mamata Banerjee and compared some of the clauses of NCTC to the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). He also pointed out that suggestions given to home ministry were not incorporated.
“Handing over of arrested persons and seized material to the nearest police station as soon as possible makes NCTC almost as stringent as AFSPA. It will have far reaching consequences in our state, which is politically sensitive. We have been advocating for revocation of AFSPA,” Abdullah said.
The youngest chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, said in his written speech, which was tabled at the meeting, the provisions of NCTC infringe upon the rights of the states.
Home Minister P Chidambaram tried to explain that terrorism didn’t recognise boundaries and NCTC was necessary. He said, “We have to work together. Working together – state governments and the central government working together, the Opposition and the treasury working together, civil society and government institutions working together – I am confident we can make the country more safe and secure.”
While reminding the Union government that NCTC should be kept in abeyance till the time a consensus was not built on its implementation, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha demanded formation of a sub-committee of chief ministers to study NCTC. “The NCTC should be kept in abeyance till the sub-committee of chief ministers gives its report,” Jayalalitha said.
Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik also argued that NCTC in its present form was not acceptable and the intelligence bureau should not head it because it is against the democratic structure to allow a secret organisation with so much power. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, too, stressed that NCTC was against the principles of federalism and there were basic flaws in the structure of the organisation.
Accusing the Union government of behaving like “viceroys of yore”, the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi demanded to bring back a POTA-like law to fight terrorism and Maoists.