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Government may amend NCTC order after stiff opposition

Monday March 12, 2012 11:42:26 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The government may amend its Feb 6 order on an anti-terror intelligence hub, giving in to stiff opposition from non-Congress ruled states over fears that the all-powerful agency could reduce the role of police forces in countering terrorism.

The government's change of heart follows union Home Secretary R.K. Singh's high-level meeting Monday with state chief secretaries, home secretaries and police chiefs over the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

Officials from Odisha and West Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar raised the issue relating to powers and functions of the agency that will collate and analyse inputs on terror activities in India.

A home ministry spokesperson said the "primary concern" raised by the states was concerning the modalities and details of operational coordination between the states and the NCTC.

"The need to make the states an effective stakeholder in all aspects of counter-terrorism domain and in the proposed NCTC format was a general view expressed by most states and union territories."

The spokesperson said some of the key points raised in the meeting included the need to rework the NCTC order to "amplify the powers, functions and duties of (its) standing council" which will run the agency and has senior officers of the state police forces on it.

Among other issues raised include the need to ensure that NCTC is also equally obliged to respond to state governments' requests and the need to provide resources to upgrade state capabilities.

The NCTC was stalemated as non-Congress states have been trying to forge a common ground to oppose Home Minister P. Chidambaram's project for a centralised agency to maintain data of terror modules, terrorists, their associates, friends, families and supporters.

The agency has the legal authority to make arrests and conduct search operations in terror-related cases while keeping state police concerned into the loop. It derives its powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The representatives of the non-Congress states in the meeting said the Intelligence Bureau was already doing what NCTC is supposed to do and there was no need to give power of arrest to the new agency.

The home secretary assured the states "that their concerns have been noted and would be suitably addressed", the spokesperson said.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the first to oppose the idea after the cabinet Jan 11 granted approval for setting up the agency that was to come up March 1.

However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress is an important Congress ally in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), joined the anti-NCTC chorus which forced the government to delay its formation.

They have demanded from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a meeting of state chief ministers to discuss the issue before any final decision is taken on the operationalisation of the NCTC.

Chidambaram had written back to the chief ministers opposing the move stating that the NCTC would merely be given bare minimum power for operational reason under the existing act and state police would be in the loop in case sleuths of the agency make any arrests or search operations.





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