Amid stiff opposition from Opposition-ruled states to the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the BJP on Monday said the fight against terror must co-exist with federalism and it was meaningless to debate the “imaginary federalism versus terrorism” issue.

“The fight against terrorism can and must co-exist with federalism. It would be meaningless to debate an imaginary ‘federalism versus terrorism’ issue,” party leader Arun Jaitley said in response to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s plea for setting up the NCTC.

“There could be no possible objection to a National Terrorism Counter Centre but its powers and jurisdictions must be within the constitutional framework.

“Collecting cross-border intelligence and keeping an eye on the activities of those who foment trouble from outside is exclusively within the domain and the capacity of the central government,” he said.

The Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said the NCTC is proposed to be set up under the Intelligence Bureau and intelligence agencies should not get into police powers.

He cited the example of the American NCTC which deals with only strategic planning and the integration of intelligence without any operational involvement and it is the joint terrorism analysis centre that plays a coordinating role.

“The Indian proposal is to have an agency which will have the intelligence functions and would also conduct operations. It is this power being vested in an intelligence agency to the detriment of the law and order powers of the state which the state governments are rightly objecting to. It would be dangerous to vest the powers of search, seizure and arrest i.e. the operational powers to an intelligence agency,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley also criticised the functioning of Intelligence Bureau (IB), saying it has focused more on political activities rather than those of national security. “Of late, the IB as an important national resource has shifted its’ focus predominantly from security related activities to political and quasi-political activities. I am strongly of the opinion that this tendency has to be curtailed.

The IB’s functions should not be political or investigative. It is an agency which must restrict itself to intelligence collection, processing and transmission. That is what the NCTC must do,” he said.

According to Mr. Jaitley, India has been on the radar of terrorism both domestic and cross-border for the past three decades and thus the need for a concerted approach against terror uninterruptedly.

He also accused the Congress-led ruling UPA of being soft on terror and example of repealing the POTA law which was an effective instrument for investigating and punishing terrorists during NDA regime.

Mr. Jaitley said the establishment of an adequate collection and transmission mechanism is understandable but questioned why the Centre wanted to give police powers to it which would otherwise be under the domain of NIA or state police. “Why should the central government not trust the states,” he asked, adding the NCTC can always coordinate its activities with state police.

“Is there any reason to doubt that the state police in India cannot be trusted for the anti-terror functions,” he asked. He added that the NIA can also be involved in such functions in extraordinary cases.

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