The annual meeting of Chief Ministers on Internal Security, scheduled for April 16, may be extended by a day to discuss the issue of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram indicated on Saturday.
The Centre is facing criticism from non-Congress Chief Ministers on the counter-terror hub proposal. Some of them, including Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Narendra Modi of Gujarat, have demanded that the meeting be devoted solely to a comprehensive discussion on the NCTC. About a dozen Chief Ministers have protested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the NCTC would infringe the rights and powers of the State governments and violate the principles of federalism.
Mr. Chidambaram told journalists here, “I am glad that there will be a debate [on the NCTC issue], and I sincerely hope that it will be a debate based on the Constitution, the laws in force and the very healthy convention that has been built over the last 65 years.”
Asked about Ms. Banerjee's letter to Dr. Singh, asking that time be devoted at the April 16 meeting to discuss the NCTC issue, he said he would get a copy from the Prime Minister's Office and send his reply.
“Please remember that the Chief Ministers' conference on internal security is an annual affair. It was initially convened for February 15, 2012. The NCTC question came up in March. The February 15 meeting was postponed to April 16 because of the elections and the parliamentary session,” he said. “But I think it is important that all issues on the agenda are discussed. How we will accommodate the request of the Chief Ministers to devote a considerable amount of time to discuss the NCTC subject, it is a matter that will be resolved, I think, in the next couple of days.”
Asked about the possibility of the meeting being extended by a day, Mr. Chidambaram said it would depend on the convenience of the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers. “Yes, that is an option.”
On the NCTC notification, he said it was there on the agenda. “It is when a director is appointed, the three joint directors are appointed and a standing council is constituted, there is an NCTC. Otherwise, it is still an idea which has to be operationalised.”