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Disputes over National Counter Terrorism Center

Ever since the Mumbai blasts of 1993 have occurred the threat of terrorism has grown significantly in India and over the years sporadic events of terror have made news every time an act took place. 26/11 was also one such act but the manner in which it was carried not only reminded us of the growing threat of terror but also managed to expose some serious loopholes that exist in our system of national security. Comprehensive reforms in national security began henceforth and recently one of the primary institutions slated to be setup under such reforms was proposed by union HM P. Chidambaram. It is the national counter terrorism centre (NCTC).

The body of NCTC is made on the similar lines of its US counterpart (with some changes made to suite Indian requirements) whose main objective is to counter any terrorist activity that might take place India. It is being seen as a huge step in dealing with the evil of terrorism.

However the detailed provisions governing the body have raised a lot of questions especially amongst the state govts with allegations like infringement of federal setup. This along with some other disputes are explained as follows-:

The main cause of the dispute is considered to be section 43(a) of the act which empowers the nctc "to arrest and detain any person if the body feels that the subject is associated with a terror act(even potential)" on its own. This provision has been widely criticized by states (primarily non congress) alleging central domination on state powers and authority. Law and order is a state subject and in this case NCTC will have overriding powers and none of the state police will have the mandate to interfere. Note- although sect 43(b) says that the body will have to submit a reason of arrest to the concerned person as well as intimate the closest police station of the state regarding the arrest.

The proposed institution of NCTC will have investigation , intelligence and operational powers vested with it. critics say that not only the powers are extraordinary but it is too much for a single body to handle effectively. Intelligence should be the only prerogative of NCTC and the rest should be handled by the already existing setups of police and central agencies.

NCTC has can be considered as POTA with a different name .we all are aware of the human rights violation that had let to repealing of the POTA. Now the NCTC has sought to work on same lines, the only difference being that it is now a more centrally dominated body.

The above mentioned are the major disputes encircling the NCTC ,but it is important to consider a wider picture too . The same old apprehension of federal structure being distorted must not undermine the wider concerns of terrorism which is a serious threat to national security. Political points must not be scored at the cost of ignoring terrorist threats. Moreover the concerns of the states can always be resolved by a dialogue (speedy) but striking down the whole institution as a whole will not be a sagacious step.

The centre can further strengthen its stand by ensuring open and transparent working of the body to an extent that it does not create a terror image amongst its own citizens itself ,which many fear it may. Also the operational and investigative powers should be vested with existing bodies so that NCTC can fully concentrate on its sole objective of integrated intelligence gathering from across the nation rather than creating confusion with other bodies on matters of investigative and operational jurisdiction. A synergy must exist b/w central and state institutions to reap the desired results of this proposed setup.

It must be revisited that India is a union of states and not a federation, which necessitates the centre to play a crucial role in all activities concerned with the welfare of people .NCTC is a need of the hour and rather than looking at narrow concerns of infringement of state rights (which can be resolved by a consensus and also showing some trust in centre) a more important concern of counter terrorism must be addressed after all it is our country as a whole which is a victim of this menace of terrorism and the solution too lies in dealing with it as a unit rather than in fragments.

- Kanwar Deep Singh