NEW DELHI: Centre will discuss in detail the "scope and functions" of the proposed NCTC with states, Home Minister P Chidambaram today told 10 non-Congress Chief Ministers who had raised serious objections to the powers of the anti-terror body.
In identical letters to Chief Ministers including those of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and West Bengal, Chidambaram said a meeting of heads of police and anti-terror bodies of state governments will be convened by the Union Home Secretary to "discuss in detail the scope and functions of the National Centre for Counter Terrorism, which is due to be operationalised on March 1.
The Chief Ministers have been stoutly opposing the powers to arrest and search vested with the NCTC but the Home Minister told them that these are "bare minimum powers" that would be necessary.
"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," he said in a note along with the letter where he elaborated the genesis, objectives, structure and powers of the NCTC and asked the Chief Ministers to carefully consider it.
Besides, he said, the powers conferred under Section 43(A) of the UA(P) 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.
Section 43 (A) dealing with the powers to arrest and search is a major irritant for the Chief Ministers as they believe that it would infringe on the state's powers.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had conveyed her serious reservations on NCTC powers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and later claimed that the decision has been put on hold but there was no word on this from the government.
The Prime Minister's Office had said that Singh had asked the Home Minister to address the concerns raised by the Chief Ministers.
Chidambaram in his letter told the Chief Ministers that it was a "matter of national importance and should be kept above party politics".
The Chief Ministers had also complained that the anti-terror body will hurt the country's federal structure and infringe on powers of the state government.
The Home 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 and for this purpose the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was amended in 2004 and 2008 through joint efforts.
In the note, the Home Minister said that a body mandated to deal with counter terrorism must have, in certain circumstances, an operational capability which is true of all counter terrorism bodies in the world.
As regards the location of the NCTC, after considering different options, the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to place it within the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
In this regard, Government was guided by the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (2001) that IB shall be "the nodal intelligence agency" for counter intelligence and counter terrorism within the country".
Chidambaram recalled that when a Bill to amend UA(P)A was introduced in December, 2008 and passed by both Houses of Parliament, there was no demur or opposition to either Section 43(A) or other amendments.
On powers to seek information, he noted that this was already available with the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and it was now proposed to subsume MAC in the NCTC. Hence, no new power is envisaged, he said.