Rejecting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's contention that NCTC is a "poorly conceived" idea, the Centre on Wednesday said the country will have to pay heavy price if the anti-terror hub does not come into existence.
Finance minister P Chidambaram, the architect of the NCTC, said it was "deeply regrettable" that a few chief ministers opposed even the modified version of the National Counter Terrorism Centre.
"I am afraid, the kind of seriousness that we should give to NCTC, is lost. And I deeply regret that a couple of chief ministers opposed the NCTC even at the present modified version. If this NCTC is opposed, I am afraid, as I said, the country will pay price from time to time," he told reporters after Modi's criticism of NCTC at the chief ministers conference.
The Gujarat chief minister termed the NCTC as a "poorly conceived" idea which "tinkers" with old ideas rather than strengthening them.
Modi said the proposed structure of the NCTC is not in congruence with the principles of federalism as it essentially tries to create a "federal police" which is an alien concept to the country.
Chidambaram, who was present at the conference, said that had the central government brought NCTC along with amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, National Investigation Agency Act and with the Multi Agency Centre in December 2008 after the 26/11 terror attack, it would have got approval of the states.
"Some chief ministers are talking about giving safeguards on NCTC. They are not opposing NCTC. I think opposing NCTC is unfortunate. I think it is wrong," he said.
Chidambaram said the present form of the NCTC was a modified version and no Congress chief minister opposed it.
According to the February, 2012 executive order, which faced strong opposition from non-Congress chief ministers, the NCTC will work as an "integral" part of Intelligence Bureau and its director will report to the IB chief.
Besides, the anti-terror body was given 'power' through the executive order to carry out operations, including arrest, search and seizure, while keeping the state police concerned into the loop.
However, the latest draft of the NCTC said it will work directly under the home ministry and not the IB.
Besides, when a terrorist or a terror group is identified or located, operations against them would be carried out through or in conjunction with state police.
"Where services of special forces are required to assist the state police for any operation, the NCTC shall have the authority to requisition the special forces," the draft says.
Commenting on Modi's statement that the country lacks a strong anti-terror law, Chidambaram said UAPA has adequate provisions to deal with terror cases but what the country needed was instruments like NCTC to implement the law.
"One instrument is MAC. Today, The chief minister of Gujarat is praising MAC. MAC was operationalised by me after I took over (as home minister) in December 2008. That is one instrument. NIA is the second instrument. The third, and I maintain, the most important instrument, is NCTC.
"He (Modi) wants an anti-terror law or strengthening of anti-terror law. Actually he wants to bring back TADA and POTA. Why did not he say so...that I want POTA back. The Congress party is opposed to POTA, the UPA is opposed to POTA," he said.
The finance minister said in Parliament, in 2008, when he (as Home Minister) moved the amendments of UAPA, they (BJP) wanted two provisions of POTA but he rejected the proposal.
"I said I am sorry, we cannot. The House passed the amendments without the provisions of POTA. The chief minister of Gujarat should candidly say that he wants POTA back. UPA candidly said we are against POTA. The laws are there, what we need now are the instruments. The instrument we need is a strong NCTC," he said.
Chidambaram said Modi's criticism of the chief ministers conference on internal security as "rituals" was unfair as most of the chief ministers took the meeting very seriously.
"To call it a ritual means, all other chief ministers are also taking it as rituals. I think he is not doing justice to fellow chief ministers," he said.
Chidambaram also dismissed suggestions that multiplicity of agencies will only create more confusions and ineffectiveness at the field level, saying separate tasks have been assigned to MAC, NIA and the proposed NCTC and Modi himself praised the MAC and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah praised the role of NIA in Liyaqat Ali case.
He alleged that Modi and some other BJP leaders were interfering in the CBI investigation into Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case with the intention to ensure that truth in the case does not come out.
"The CBI under the direction of Supreme Court is questioning certain people. One of the person questioned by CBI is a former police officer of Gujarat who is a serving officer of IB. That is CBI's decision and this is a court monitored investigation. Why accuse the government of India or the Congress party.
"On the contrary, such statements are gross interference of CBI investigation intended to derail CBI investigation, intended to ensure that truth should not come out. I take serious objection to the statements made in last two three days questioning CBI investigation of Ishrat Jahan case," he said.
Modi had tweeted, "Unfortunate that in its quest to target political opponents, Centre is undermining intelligence systems with CBI questioning IB officials. I objected the misuse of central agencies against political opponents. It weakens the agencies and compromises fight against terror and Maoists."
The finance minister rejected Modi's allegation that former member of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, Harsh Mander had links with Maoists.
"Harsh Mander, who could not carry out his activities in Gujarat and left Gujarat, runs an NGO. There is a lady who was heading that organisation for a while and was supposed to have Naxal links. So, what did that got to do with NAC? If he (Modi) wants, he should call Mr Mander and ask him and Mr Mander will tell him what is happening in Gujarat," he said.
Chidambaram also dismissed suggestions that Centre was not giving funds to the state for issues related to internal security.
"Every rupee concerning to internal security is given to state governments. All funds under modernisation of police forces are given to states. Integrated Action Plan fund is given to the states. Tell me which is the programme related to internal security whose funds are not given to the state governments," he said.