Counter-terrorism centre won’t be under IB; nodal officer will be appointed in each State

P. Chidambaram as Home Minister might have failed to convince States on his ambitious project, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, but his successor Sushilkumar Shinde has decided to give it a shot by seeking to dilute the draft to suit their demands, especially containing proposals to appoint nodal officers in States for better coordination, and create an independent counter-terror hub — out of the Intelligence Bureau’s control.

Informed sources said Mr. Shinde is likely to submit to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the revised draft soon incorporating these two crucial points. Once the proposal gets CCS approval, Mr. Shinde will hold meetings with the dissenting Chief Ministers.

Mr. Shinde has activated backchannel negotiations with the States opposing the NCTC, which are BJP-ruled Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and other States where the Congress is not in power — West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Odisha. Notably, after his meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last week, he hinted that she was not against the project on principle, the sources said.

A senior official of the Ministry of Home Affairs said keeping the NCTC directly under the MHA and not under the command of the IB, as envisaged earlier, and appointment of a nodal officer in each State, who could be its police chief, for keeping the States informed beforehand of any anti-terror operation, would make the plan work.

The original draft proposed that the Multi-Agency Centre and the operations wing of the IB would carry out anti-terror operations on their own and inform or handover the suspect to the nearest police station. However, this was seen as a direct infringement on the State’s jurisdiction and sovereignty by Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu) and Naveen Patnaik (Odisha).

However, senior MHA and IB officials are sceptical of the utility of the NCTC in its truncated form. “Modelled on the lines of the famed NCTC created by the U.S. after 9/11 attacks, Mr. Chidambaram’s idea was to let Central agencies act swiftly to foil a terror plot or nab terrorists without leaving much scope for information getting leaked, which we have often seen happening. With States getting more say and the surprise element missing in the revised proposal, the NCTC might not be able to achieve what it was initially designed for,” a senior official said.

Post-Hyderabad blasts, Mr. Shinde is keen on seeing the NCTC functional on the ground at the earliest, which would be crucial in plugging gaps in the intelligence network and give the police and other investigative agencies the operational edge. Notably, the MHA readied an ordinance in February last year making the new anti-terror body a nodal organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. But it was deferred indefinitely in the face of opposition by the States.