The Union home ministry has moved the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for clearance to its new blueprint for the National Counter Terrorism Centre as India’s standalone anti-terror body with powers to conduct independent operations in exceptional circumstances.
The proposal — drawn up by home minister P Chidambaram after taking in account the reservations of the chief ministers — could be taken up by the CCS later this month for a preliminary discussion."After the CCS approval, a revised order will be issued notifying the NCTC," a senior government official said, but acknowledged that the timing of the approval would depend on political rather than administrative exigency.
The home ministry earlier had to step back after chief ministers from NDA-ruled states as well as West Bengal — where UPA ally Trinamool Congress is in power — opposed NCTC at the meeting of CMs on 5 May.
Ministry sources said a major complaint of the CMs had been addressed by proposing creating NCTC as an independent body rather than create it under the Intelligence Bureau.
Chidambaram, however, is unwilling to completely strip the body of its proposed powers to conduct operations and wants a situation where the NCTC can move in at short notice in emergencies. But it is not clear if this concession would satisfy critics
of the umbrella body, particularly opposition-ruled states.
Opposition parties including the BJP, Left and the Trinamool Congress had expressed reservations at empowering a central body with powers to conduct operations, arguing that powers of arrest flew in the face of the federal structure.
Sources said the security establishment had debated the option of placing the NCTC under the operations wing of the NIA, a body enacted by Parliament with powers to probe terror without permission of states.
Another was to empower the NCTC in phases. The home ministry blueprint sees the NCTC — and not the IB — become India’s primary anti-terror fighter. In a sense, this is closer to the structure that Chidambaram had envisaged when he first spoke about NCTC in 2009.