In a major poser to the UPA, four chief ministers have joined hands to oppose powers given to controversial body, National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Alliance partner TMC's Mamata Banerjee, AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, BJD's Naveen Patnaik and and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar have come together on the issue, which could boil into a full blown challenge for the UPA.
The UPA will hold a core committee meeting later in the day to discuss the issue.
Home Secretary RK Singh said, "NCTC set up under amended UAPA, not right for states to object," to newschannel Times Now.
The West Bengal government on Friday said it would oppose the recent Union Home Ministry order on the powers of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), a day after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the Centre to review the powers of NCTC.
Under this order issued, dated 3 February, Banerjee said extensive powers have been given to the NCTC located in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and added that officers of the Operations Division of the NCTC will have the power to arrest and the powers to search under section 4 3-A of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Also all authorities including the functionaries of the state governments are required to provide information/documents to the NCTC, Banerjee said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "review and withdraw" the order on organisation, function, power and duties of the newly constituted National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Expressing concern over the alleged infringement of federal rights of states, Banerjee in a letter to the Prime Minister, dated 14 February, said: "It is difficult for the state government to accept such arbitrary exercise of power by the central government/central agency, which have a bearing on the rights and privilege of the states as enshrined in the Constitution of India."
Banerjee's letter to the Prime Minister issued by the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's office here today said that in a federal structure, any decision of the central government, which infringed upon the powers and rights of the state governments should be taken only after adequate consultation and with the consent of the state governments.
"The order, therefore, appears to be an infringement on the powers of state governments in matters of investigation and maintenance of order," she said in the letter.
The letter has however not been forwarded to the Home Ministry. In its first response the Ministry of Home Affairs said, "Views of all CMs were taken in internal security meetings," reported newschannel Times Now.
Reacting to the controversy, Congress leader Manoj Tewari said to Times Now, " Every Chief Minister has the flexibility to articulate their opinion. It's unfortunate that the discussion is taking palce after the attack on the Israeli diplomate. The reality needs to be kept in mind.
If at all there are issue of transgressing the rights of the state, they will be sorted out. The intent was to have a credible instrument to proactively counter terror."
The BJP has jumped into the fray, openly backing the four chief ministers. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is said to have backed the four chief ministers too.
"The UPA2 has come out with a weird proposal, without taking its allies on board," senior BJP leader Balbir Punj said to Times Now.
The 15th Lok Sabha has 543 seats in total. UPA2 has 257 seats of which the Congress has 207 seats, the TMC has 19 seats and others have 31 seats. Among the other parties opposing the NCTC, the AIADMK has 9 seats, JD(U) has 20 and BJD 14 seats.
The latest imbroglio over the NCTC therefore poses a serious threat to the UPA as the opposing parties have a considerable number of seats in the Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP has also voiced support against the NCTC.
Earlier, on 13 February, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to the Prime Minister opposing the powers to the newly constituted NCTC. "I have written a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister opposing the powers given to the NCTC," Patnaik said. Patnaik had also described the 3 February MHA order as "draconian."
Toughening its stand on counter- terrorism, the Government had decided to operationalise from 1 March the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), a body meant to coordinate operations against terror groups.
Three weeks after the Ministry of Home Affairs got the nod from Cabinet Committee of Security, it unveiled its plan of the anti-terror body which has been given powers to arrest and carry out searches and will have a separate wing for operations.
"It (NCTC) shall come into force with effect from 1 March, ....the officers of the operations divisions of the NCTC shall have the power to arrest and power to search under Section 43A of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967," the order said.
The unit would be headed by a director of the rank of Additional Director General with three units — gathering intelligence, analysis of intelligence and carrying out operations — and each of these division would be headed by a joint director of Intelligence Bureau. This is the second such organisation set up by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram post 26/11 after the National Investigation Agency. The NCTC will have the power to requisition services of the National Security Guard or the elite Black Cat commandos. Official sources said through the NCTC will be part of IB initially, in the long run it will come into existence as a separate entity.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2012 14:43:35 IST