The Centre's ambitious plan to create a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) appears to have run into rough weather with several non-Congress Chief Ministers attacking the move on the ground that it “infringes upon the powers and rights of State governments.”
Nine Chief Ministers and a former Chief Minister have opposed the NCTC.
It is the criticism of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that has hurt the UPA government most.
Ms. Banerjee and her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, in separate letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urged him to “review and withdraw” the February 3, 2012 order notifying the NCTC. They say the Centre's counter-terror blueprint violates principles of federalism and encroaches upon the turf of the States.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa also shared the concern of other non-Congress Chief Ministers, saying the proposed anti-terror body suffered from “deficiencies” and includes provisions that tantamount to usurping the legitimate rights of the States.
Expressing concern that the NCTC would infringe on the federal rights of the States, Ms. Banerjee said: “It is difficult for the State government to accept such arbitrary exercise of power by the Central government/Central agencies, which have a bearing on the rights and privileges of the State as enshrined in the Constitution.”
Ms. Banerjee's letter was released by Mr. Patnaik's office in Bhubaneswar.
Mr. Patnaik said the UPA government was issuing “authoritarian orders” without consulting the States.
Asking the Prime Minister to review the order which had “draconian overtones,” Mr. Patnaik said the people were aware of their democratic and federal rights, which, at times, had to be underlined by the State governments to the Union government.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that in the name of fighting terrorism and Naxalism, the Centre was out to violate the federal structure of the country.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan termed the notification a serious setback to the nation's federal structure.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the move was another attempt to usurp the powers of the States.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also opposed the Centre's move.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said it was a measure to usurp whatever was left of the States' authority in governance.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh opposed the Centre's notification calling it a “serious setback to the federal structure of the country.”
The former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Telugu Desam Party chief, N. Chandrababu Naidu, in a letter to the Prime Minister on Friday, requested him to withdraw the order and initiate debate with political parties and State governments along with a discussion in Parliament on this “vital issue affecting Centre-State relations.”
Amid the developments, Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh defended the government move, saying the counter-terror body was in national interest. It was being established under the existing Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which had been in force for the past many years.
“The NCTC is being formed for better coordination among agencies to fight terror better. We are not passing any new legislation. The Sections which have been quoted have been on the statute for the past six or seven years. It is not any new provisions of law or anything like that. There should not be any controversy,” he said. Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said there could be no compromise in fighting terror.
BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the way the NCTC was being set up showed that several States had no confidence in the Centre.
Counter-terror expert B. Raman said the NCTC, set up in the U.S. after 9/11, had no powers to arrest, interrogate, investigate and prosecute. Till now, in India, these powers belonged to only the NIA and the CBI and State police forces.
“By giving these powers to the NCTC, we are going to create confusion in the investigation and prosecution of terror-related cases.”
Mr. Raman termed the move an “unwise step” that could further politicise the handling of counter-terrorism.
The NCTC will become functional from March 1.