The government has said it would set up on March 1, 2012 a powerful anti-terror agency that will integrate and analyse inputs on terror threats in India and will have legal authority to make arrests and conduct search operations.
The order comes after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on January 11, 2012 approved the creation of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), an agency to maintain data of terror modules, terrorists, their associates, friends, families and supporters.
It said the NCTC will derive powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which allows central government agencies to make arrests or searches in terror-related cases while keeping state police concerned into the loop.
“The officers of the NCTC shall have the power to arrest and the power to search under the UAPA,” said the order.
The NCTC will also have the power to seek information, including documents, reports, transcripts, and cyber information from any agency, including from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency, NATGRID, National Technical Research Organization, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and all seven central armed police forces including the National Security Guard (NSG).
The agency has worked out on the model of the US’ similar body aimed at combating terrorism by collecting and analysing threats, sharing the inputs and information with other agencies and converting these into actionable data.
The counter-terrorism agency will be a separate body located in the Intelligence Bureau under the control of the home ministry.
It will “draw up plans and coordinate actions for counter terrorism” and will “integrate intelligence pertaining to terrorism, analyse the same”, according to the government order to come into effect from March 1, 2012.
The head of the NCTC will be called director and will be an officer in the rank of additional director IB.
Other officials of the agency will be deputed from other organisations like the Research and Analysis Wing, IB and other intelligence and investigation agencies.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 06.02.2012 approved the Home Ministry’s ambitious plan to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre.
After the CCS’ nod, the NCTC will be the nodal agency for all counter-terrorism activities and intelligence agencies such as Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing
(RAW), Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and state intelligence agencies.
These agencies will report to it on matters related to terrorism. The NCTC will then streamline terror-related intelligence, analyse and provide them for action to concerned agencies, official sources said.
It will coordinate with all intelligence agencies and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) will act as the investigation wing.
The NCTC will connect Multi Agency Centre (MAC), which would be subsumed into NCTC, and all agencies reporting to it, in Delhi and state capitals.
Between the Centre, where almost two dozen agencies coordinate with MAC, and states almost 500 stakeholders are involved in counter-terror activities.
The NCTC will not have any foot-soldier to collect information, but will depend on other agencies.
The head of the body, an additional Director General level police officer, will report to the Union Home Secretary.
7 CMs oppose anti-terror agency
The newly constituted National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has run into strong political resistance with a group of chief ministers coming out in the open to oppose its powers. The face-off could trigger serious doubts about the effectiveness of the agency, billed to be the country’s principal counter-terror body after its launch on March 1, 2012.
A diverse group of chief ministers, including personalities as politically disparate as Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik and his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, said NCTC’s charter was violative of the federal structure. They questioned the manner in which the agency was set up, without taking states on board, and demanded that the decision be reversed.
The opponents include other chief ministers too – Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu’s J Jayalalithaa, Prem Kumar Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh. Their number is likely to increase.
Telugu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu also joined the protest, calling for revocation of the notification setting up the NCTC with the objective of improving the country’s response to the threat of terrorism. This, when the Centre has set itself a deadline of 90 days to complete the recruitment process and make the agency fully operational.
Patnaik was the first to raise the red flag and was instrumental in rallying his peers around. “My concern is the authoritarian notification with draconian overtones about law and order among others in which the state governments have not been consulted,” he said. Along with Banerjee, Patnaik has already lodged a strong protest with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
An avoidable controversy over the NCTC
By creating a multiplicity of organisations having powers to arrest and by giving these powers to the NCTC which will work under the director, IB, we will be taking an unwise step which could further politicise our handling of counter-terrorism, says B Raman.
There has been an avoidable and unfortunate controversy over the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, which, according to media reports, is to become operational from March 1, 2012.
Going by the reports, the NCTC, which is meant to co-ordinate intelligence collection, analysis and assessment and follow-up action in matters relating to terrorism, will differ from the NCTC set up in the US after 9/11 in two important respects.
In the US, the NCTC is an independent institution functioning under the supervision of the Director, National Intelligence. It co-ordinates the functioning of the counter-terrorism divisions of the various agencies of the intelligence community. The chiefs of the various intelligence agencies having any role in counter-terrorism do not have any powers of supervision over it. The idea of making it independent was to ensure that it would take an objective view of the functioning of the counter-terrorism divisions of different agencies and ensure proper-coordination. The expectation was that being an independent agency, its functioning will not be affected by inter-agency clashes and egos.
As per the media reports, the NCTC being set up in India will not be an independent institution. It will be part of the IB and director, IB, will supervise its functioning. This could come in the way of an independent audit and supervision of the functioning of the counter-terrorism division of the IB. Whatever deficiencies are there presently in the exercise of the counter-terrorism functions of the IB will get duplicated and magnified instead of being identified and rectified.
The post-9/11 creation of the NCTC in the US was meant to strengthen the preventive capability by improving the collection, analysis and assessment of terrorism-related intelligence and effective follow-up action. The 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US were attributed to inadequate intelligence and unsatisfactory follow-up action even on the intelligence that was available. The same was the case in India in respect of 26/11.
The NCTC in the US has no powers of arrest, interrogation, investigation and prosecution. The responsibility in these matters continues to be that of the FBI. In India, if media reports are to be believed, the NCTC has been given the powers to arrest and carry out searches under Section 43 (A) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Till now, in India, these powers belong to only the National Investigation Agency and the Central Bureau of Investigation at the Centre and the police in the states. By giving these powers to the NCTC too, we are going to create confusion in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases.
Moreover, the IB does not have such powers. It is a clandestine organisation for the secret collection of intelligence. In all genuinely democratic countries, intelligence agencies are not given powers of arrest, searches and interrogation due to fears that such powers may be misused under pressure from the political leadership against political opponents. Only in authoritarian countries do intelligence agencies have powers of arrest and searches.
In India, the IB informally associates itself with all terrorism-related interrogation, but the arrests and searches are made either by the police or by the NIA or the CBI. By creating a multiplicity of organisations having such powers and by giving these powers to the NCTC which will work under the director, IB, we will be taking an unwise step which could further politicise our handling of counter-terrorism.
States have been represented in NCTC, says Sibal
As the chorus against the proposal to set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) grew louder with 13 States opposing the move, the Centre has said it is ready for a dialogue to remove misgivings. “If States have any concerns, the Central government is willing to have a dialogue,” Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said on 21.02.2012.
Pointing out that the States had been represented in the NCTC, Mr. Sibal said the central council consisted of a director, three joint directors and the heads of anti-terrorist organisations of States. The powers given to the NCTC for counter-terrorism were earlier vested with the Centre. Explaining the rationale behind setting up the NCTC, Mr. Sibal said that after the Kargil war, the Group of Ministers recommended the strengthening of the intelligence system and thereafter, the Inter-State Intelligence Support System (ISISS) was set up. Following the recommendation of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), it was converted into the NCTC. “The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [UAPA], 1967 was amended in 2004, whereby power for counter-terrorism was given to an officer of the Central government not below the rank of Joint Secretary, who was the designated authority, and in the States, not below the rank of Secretary,” the Minister told. The UAPA was further amended in 2008 and under Section 43 (A), powers for counter-terrorism operations were transferred to the NCTC. “The power with NCTC was already there,” Mr. Sibal added.
NCTC won’t take away States’ powers – Manmohan
Within days of non-Congress Chief Ministers flaying the Centre’s move to set up a counter-terror hub, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to seven of them, explaining that the primary purpose of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), located within the Intelligence Bureau (IB), was to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country.
Seeking to allay the apprehensions of the Chief Ministers on encroachment of the States’ rights and turf, Dr. Singh on 21.02.2012 assured them that in forming the NCTC, it was not the Centre’s “intent in any way to affect the basic features of the constitutional provisions and allocation of powers between the States and the Union.”
Apart from the UPA ally, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who wrote to Dr. Singh on February 14, 2012 asking him to review and withdraw the February 3 NCTC order, Naveen Patnaik from Odisha, Nitish Kumar from Bihar and Jayalalithaa from Tamil Nadu joined the anti-NCTC chorus.
The Chief Ministers apprehended that the NCTC, to be made operational from March 1, 2012 will infringe upon the powers and rights of the States. The decision should have been taken only after adequate consultation and with the consent of the State governments.
Pointing out that the primary purpose of the NCTC was to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country, as the IB had been doing so far, the Prime Minister stressed that it was for “this reason that the NCTC has been located within the IB and not as a separate organisation.”
However, noting concerns of the Chief Ministers about the manner in which the NCTC would function, Dr. Singh said he had asked Home Minister P. Chidambaram to address them suitably in consultation with them.
The Prime Minister said the idea of such a centre had been under consideration since the Group of Ministers report of 2001 suggested a joint task force on intelligence and the report was accepted by the government of the day. “It was also suggested by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that a National Centre for Counter-Terrorism be established,” he said in the letter.
Seeking to allay their apprehensions, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had written to 10 non-Congress chief ministers, assuring them that the “next steps” on the NCTC would be taken only after consulting the states.
In his letter, Mr. Chidambaram had said the powers conferred under Section 43 (A) of the Act must be read with the duty under Section 43 (B) to produce the person or article without unnecessary delay before the nearest police station (which will be under the state government).
Punjab, Gujarat oppose NCTC; others want it to be reworked – 12.03.2012
Gujarat and Punjab on 12.03.2012 stoutly opposed the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre on the ground that it will infringe on the powers of the state police while five other non-Congress states said it was not acceptable in the present form and needs to be reworked.
The NCTC, which has been opposed by a dozen non-Congress Chief Ministers, came up for discussion at a high-level meeting Delhi, chaired by Union Home Secretary R K Singh and attended by states’ chief secretaries, home secretaries and police chiefs.
The representatives of Gujarat and Punjab, while making it clear that this was the brief of the political government of the respective states, said any move to have a body like NCTC will not only infringe upon the powers of the state police but also disturb the federal structure of the country, official sources said.
Officials of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka made it clear that the NCTC needs to be finetuned and the sweeping powers envisaged for it was not acceptable.
Officials from West Bengal, ruled by UPA ally Trinamool Congress, said the states must be consulted on the issue while making it clear that powers of the states cannot be eroded.
After the day-long meeting, the Home Ministry came out with a statement, saying the primary concern expressed by the states were in the modalities and details of operational coordination between the states and 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,” it said.
The states favoured the need to rework the NCTC order to amplify the powers, functions and duties of the standing council, powers of arrest and the need to ensure that the proposed anti-terror body was also equally obliged to respond to state governments’ requests and the need to provide resources to upgrade state capabilities, it said.
The Centre is also likely to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers on internal security on April 16, 2012 to discuss the concerns of the State governments on the proposed NCTC.
Next step on NCTC only after consultations: PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear on 02,04,2012 that “adequate and full consultations will take place” before the next steps relating to the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) were taken.
Referring to the NCTC, the Prime Minister said that the issue had been discussed at various forums since the report of the Group of Ministers appointed by the previous government and the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission were submitted.
Defending the government’s decision to establish the counter-terror hub, Dr. Singh said that the multi-agency centre that was established in 2001 was a pre-cursor to the NCTC and the need for a single and effective point of coordination was discussed at meetings on internal security. The Prime Minister said the initial round of consultations took place with the Chief Secretaries and police chiefs from different States on March 12, 2012.
The Prime Minister assured that the government was committed to providing fully secured living conditions to its citizens and it would take every possible step to deal with the menace of terrorism. “In fact, the setting up of the NCTC is an important step in that direction. Concern has been raised that the Central government is trying to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the State government and it has been suggested that they should be taken into confidence before the NCTC becomes operational. The question of setting up the NCTC has been discussed at various fora.
Chief Ministers meet may be extended to discuss NCTC
The annual meeting of Chief Ministers on Internal Security, scheduled for April 16, 2012 may be extended by a day to discuss the issue of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram indicated.
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, “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.”
Convene CMs’ meeting on NCTC: Jayalalithaa
TN Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on 2.04.2012 urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers for exclusively discussing the issue of establishing the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Reiterating her opposition to the NCTC and calling upon Dr. Singh to keep in abeyance its formation, Ms. Jayalalilthaa, in her letter to the Prime Minister, stated: “The views of various Chief Ministers will have to be given due consideration and a purposeful discussion on counter terrorism should be made possible.”
On the Union Home Secretary’s meeting on March 12, 2012 with Chief Secretaries/Home Secretaries and Director Generals of Police of all the States, she recalled that the States had strongly objected to the move. Even Congress-ruled States had stated that the NCTC, in its present proposed form, could not be carried forward.
She said that despite her reservations, she had requested her officers to attend the meeting.
Quoting information furnished to Ms. Jayalalithaa, the Union Home Secretary had, at the meeting, clarified that the office memorandum on the NCTC had not been withdrawn. Therefore, this was deemed to have come into effect from March 1, 2012.
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