The Union government does not believe that the setting up of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has violated any federal principles or State rights, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
“On the contrary, the NCTC will be a mechanism, [through which] the shared responsibility of the Central government and the State governments to fight terrorism can be achieved,” he asserted.
“We can debate the matter, but I am quite clear in my mind that the NCTC, or a similar centre, is an absolute necessity to fight terrorism…Even those [States] that opposed certain aspects of the Office Memorandum (OM) supported the principle of the NCTC…I do not think that the NCTC violates the federal rights or the rights of the States.”
Replying to a question, he said that at a meeting of the Chief Secretaries and the Directors-General of Police with Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh in New Delhi on Monday, even the States that had raised specific and pertinent questions about certain issues in the Office Memorandum, by and large, welcomed the idea.
“The NCTC and the manner in which it will function are two separate issues. I think the idea of an NCTC is an unexceptional idea,” he said. There were differences of opinion over how the NCTC would function. “But I am absolutely confident that with discussions, these differences…can be narrowed down, and we can arrive at a consensus by which the NCTC can be operationalised.”
Mr. Chidambaram said the matter would be discussed further at a meeting of the Chief Ministers on internal security scheduled here for April 16.
When Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, quoting a report in an English newspaper, claimed that the Home Secretary had told the Chief Secretaries at Monday's meeting not to act merely as stenographers of their governments (on the NCTC), Mr. Chidambaram said he had spoken to Mr. Singh, and he categorically denied having made such a statement.
Ms. Swaraj said 10 States were against the establishment of the NCTC.
Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress said the government should not go ahead with its plan and withdraw the Office Memorandum till the debate on the Centre's “attempt” to encroach upon the States' rights ended positively.
Earlier, in a written reply, Mr. Chidambaram said the Chief Ministers of Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka had written to the Centre alleging that the order had encroached upon the domain of the States and calling for consultations with the State governments before the NCTC was operationalised. Their concerns centred on Section 43(A) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the powers of the Standing Council. The States asked the Centre to specify the circumstances under which Section 43(A) could be invoked.
Later, taking part in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for her address to Parliament, Rajnath Singh of the BJP said that instead of evolving a consensus on the issue, the government was adopting an attitude of “confrontation.” “The government's mentality is such that it is not even ready to accept the constructive support of the Opposition.”
Shailendra Kumar of the Samajwadi Party said his party was also opposed to the idea. This statement is significant as SP has just captured power in Uttar Pradesh.