In an effort to break the stalemate over setting up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the government has offered to make a climbdown on the proposed outfit’s controversial search and arrest powers.
The home ministry has told chief ministers that the NCTC would ordinarily conduct operations along with the state police units, but it wants the body to independently arrest terrorists in exceptional cases.
The concession has been made in a set of guidelines circulated ahead of the May 5 chief ministers’ meeting, which could decide the fate of India’s first dedicated body to prevent terrorist strikes.
The NCTC was to be set up on March 1 with powers to “control and coordinate” all counter-terrorism measures and search and arrest any suspected terrorist.
But strong protests by nearly a dozen chief ministers, including UPA ally Mamata Banerjee and those from NDA-ruled states, forced the government to put the project on hold.
Home secretary RK Singh had last month said that the concerns of the states would be addressed in the standard operating procedures (SoPs) that would dictate how the NCTC would use its powers.
In this document, the home ministry has proposed that the NCTC would “as far as possible” keep the heads of state police and anti-terror squads informed about its operations in advance.
In case that was not feasible in some instances, the state police would be informed about the searches and arrests made immediately.
But this is unlikely to silence critics. The chief secretary of an NDA-ruled state, who didn’t want to be identified, said unless the Centre were to push the project down their throat, most non-Congress states would demand a full-fledged law to give the NCTC any powers, the chief secretary said.