Home / Politics / Policy /  Debate over anti-terror centre heats up

New Delhi: Two instances in the capital involving unclaimed bags, one outside an army hospital and another in a busy market, caused a scare on Monday afternoon, three days after the twin blasts Hyderabad that killed 16 people led to a state of high alert across the country.

The bag, which purportedly held a laptop and was found outside the Army Research and Referral Hospital, was destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was reviewing coastal security measures in Kolkata, said the Hyderabad blasts were in reaction to the executions of Ajmal Amir Kasab, convicted in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack case, and Afzal Guru, hanged earlier this month for his role in the attack on Parliament in 2001.

“We were expecting that after the two executions, some reaction had to come," he said. “We have got some material there (at the blast site) and tests are being done in the forensic laboratory. Soon, we will get the results and the culprits will be booked."

He said the home ministry will soon revive the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which had been put in abeyance after states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat vehemently opposed its formation on grounds that the move was an attack on India’s federal structure as an organization would encroach on states’ rights.

Asked whether he would take up the NCTC issue with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during their meeting on Tuesday, Shinde said: “I have already taken up this with the CM. Mamataji is very cooperative on this issue and others like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act... I had talked to her earlier also on the NCTC issue. She has a positive mind. Whenever the country faces difficulty, the CM is very cooperative."

But the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), criticized the NCTC’s proposed structure.

“The fight against terrorism can and must co-exist with federalism. It would be meaningless to debate an imaginary federalism versus terrorism issue. There could be no possible objection to a NCTC but its powers and jurisdictions must be within the constitutional framework," he said in a written statement.

“The NCTC is proposed to be set up under the Intelligence Bureau (IB)... The proposal is to have an agency which will have the intelligence functions and would also conduct operations. It would be dangerous to vest the powers of search, seizure and arrest to an intelligence agency. The IB functioning is secret. It is a non-statutory body. Its budget and spending has no accountability," he said. Jaitley said states are right in objecting to such powers being given to NCTC.

“Of late, the IB as an important national resource has shifted its focus predominantly from security related activities to political and quasi-political activities. I am strongly of the opinion that this tendency has to be curtailed. The IB’s functions should not be political or investigative. It is an agency which must restrict itself to intelligence collection, processing and transmission. That is what the NCTC must do," Jaitley said.

The home ministry is willing to keep it out of the purview of the IB, does not want to take away its operational powers.

“The idea of NCTC is to pre-empt terror strikes and act in real time. The NCTC would be a toothless body if such powers are not given to it. It would not serve the larger purpose. The objection to NCTC is merely political," said a top official who didn’t want to be identified. Though the NCTC came into existence last year through an official notification, it was not made operational following objections from the states.

Two meetings of state chief secretaries and directors general of police last year failed to reach any consensus on the proposed anti-terror body.

PTI contributed to this story.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Recommended For You
Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout