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Disputes over National Counter Terrorism Center

India both geographically and demographically is a vast country, which makes it quite easy for the terrorists from outside and inside the territory of India to operate with ease. Moreover, this being the vary reasons for the inability of security agencies of the country to act against such terrorist activities effectively. The terrorist attack of 26/11 in Mumbai further revealed the deficiencies in our counter-terrorism architecture in terms of inadequate intelligence and lack of coordinated follow up action even on the intelligence that was available. Consequently, a year after the 2008 terrorist attacks, home minister Mr. P Chidambaram while speaking at the Centenary Endowment Lecture of the IB on December 23, 2009, underlined the need to set up two new organizations- the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and the NCTC.

It took over two years for the NCTC proposal to finally get the Cabinet Committee on security nod and was decided to start appointments of directors and core team of officials by March 31, 2012 so that the agency can start working from 2013. The NCTC proposal was pending for long as different ministries like Defence and Finance had expressed some reservations over its proposed power and function. Moreover, different states also registered their protest against some of the powers of the NCTC like, provisions, which made possible for its functionaries to "arrest anybody" and to "operate in any state". According to Chief Ministers of the states of Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, these provisions will disturb the federal structure of the states. Moreover, they said that the anti-terror body was too overbearing and not in line with the federal structure. Apart from these states, Punjab and Gujarat opposed outright the concept of a dedicated counter-terror body like NCTC.

The ministry of home affairs is trying its level best to satisfy the questions raised by the states. The center has assured the states that the counter-terrorism body will work in synchronization with the states. The coordination with state government shall be built into its operating system through state nodal officers and standard operating procedures. This will take care of apprehension that any counter terror action by NCTC can be conducted without involving the state governments. The center may accept the state governments demand that the authority and functions of the standing council be defined in the NCTC order itself. There is a need to build coordination between state and center over NCTC, while also ensuring that secrecy is not compromised. The fear of the states over the power of arrest given to NCTC was clarified by MHA explaining that under section 43A of UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), a person arrested by NCTC would be immediately handed over to the nearest police station, followed by his investigation and prosecution by the state police itself. Moreover, the power to arrest were neither new nor excusive like, the Narcotics Control Bureau, NIA, CBI and even BSF (within 15 Km of the international border) have been exercising similar powers for long.

The political parties of India should raise themselves above the limitations of politics and should support the formation of a body like NCTC. The government should formulate such provisions to help fighting against terrorism in a more efficient manner rather than ending up in forming another investigating agency.

- Raj Cham

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