Opposition Chief Ministers today rejected outright recommendations on police reforms by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) saying they "seriously infringe" upon the states' powers.
Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu (J Jayalalithaa), Bihar (Nitish Kumar), Madhya Pradesh (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) and Tripura (Manik Sarkar) also accused the Centre of committing "excessive interference" in their domestic affairs.
Except Sarkar, speeches of the three others were delivered in absentia at the Chief Ministers' conference on ARC's 5th report 'Public order: justice for each...peace for all' held here.
Jayalalithaa said many of the recommendations of the ARC relating to public order have become outdated and impractical and, most importantly, many of the suggestions seriously infringe upon the powers of the state executive and the state legislature.
"I wish to once again underscore the fact that public order is a state subject under the Constitution and that the recommendations of the Commission can at best be guidelines to facilitate better functioning. No attempt should be made to mandate or force the recommendations upon the state governments by the Union government," she said.
The second ARC, headed by Veerappa Moily, had submitted its recommendations to the Centre in June 2007.
In a dig at the Centre, the Bihar Chief Minister said a Constitutional amendment should rather be made if anyone thought of curtailing powers of state governments.
Kumar said if some people or institutions think that powers of an elected government need to be curtailed vis-a-vis police reforms, they should rather prefer to press for a Constitutional amendment to remove police and public order from the administrative control and legislative purview of the states and give powers and responsibilities to the Union government.
He said states have continued to respect the prime role given to Centre in these matters but excessive interference from the Centre in the matters of day to day governance is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister also hit out at the Union government saying despite law and order being a state subject, the Centre keeps sending impractical suggestions.
"Though Law and Order is a subject of the states' responsibility and control, we have been observing for quite some time that the Centre has been frequently sending impractical proposals and suggestions for changes in the institutional structure of the law and order and police - either in the name of recommendations of the 'Commission on Centre-State relations' or in the name of establishing NCTC or sometimes in the name of proposal on "Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill.'
"The fifth report of the second ARC is also a link of the same chain," Chouhan said.
Opposing various recommendations of the ARC, the Tripura Chief Minister said he did not support the idea of empowering the Centre to deploy its forces in case of major problems.
"This recommendation is against the basic tenets of federal framework of our Constitution," he said.
Gujarat Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel, who represented the Western state, said Gujarat disagreed with the most important recommendation made by the ARC, especially setting up of a new federal agency to deal with federal crimes.
He said while agencies like NIA and CBI already exist at Central level, there is no need to establish a new federal set up.
Jayalalithaa voiced anguish saying the Centre should stop "pontificating" and rather enhance budgetary allocations.
"Instead of pontificating about what states need to do in areas that are exclusive domain of the under the Constitution, the Government of India should come out with a refurbished national plan for modernisation of state police forces and substantially step up allocation of funds to states.
"Every time we come with great hopes of receiving more generous financial assistance for modernisation of Tamil Nadu police force, we get only paper promises and platitudes. May we expect a reversal of this trend at least now?" she said.
Jayalalithaa also made a strong point against deployment of Central forces in case of a disturbance in law and order in the state.
"We strongly object to the idea of enabling the Union Government to deploy its forces in a state during a law and order situation without requisition from the state government.
Such an arrangement will run contrary to the provisions of the Constitution," she said.