The home ministry will not operationalise the National Counter Terrorism Centre on March 1 but will instead wait to take state governments on board at a meeting of police chiefs after the ongoing assembly elections.
The home ministry decision is in line with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised to put the centre on hold. Banerjee — the only Congress ally from amongst a dozen CMs of opposition-ruled states — has been one of the loudest opponents of the NCTC.
In a letter to chief ministers soon after, home minister P Chidambaram had promised that the “next steps” on the NCTC would be taken after the meeting of police chiefs and heads of state anti-terror units.
A home ministry official said the meeting was slated to be convened on or around March 9-10. The official said it was decided not to appoint the NCTC director and three joint director-level officers before the meeting as a symbolic gesture.
Also, the home ministry has decided to extend the invitation to chief secretaries and home secretaries as well.
This would ensure that while the police chiefs and anti-terror unit heads speak from the security and operational perspective, the administrators — chief secretaries and home secretaries — would present an administrative and legal perspective of the states concerned.
The interaction, another official said, was in any way desirable before launching an inter-state initiative of the kind to ensure smoother coordination.
It is, however, not clear if the critics of the NCTC would be satisfied with the official-level interaction. Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh on Monday demanded the Centre convene a special session of the National Integration Council to discuss NCTC.