As the move to create the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) gets stuck in the debate over the Centre encroaching on the state’s powers, there could be more barriers to India firming up its security architecture.
For one, the chorus against the NCTC's powers to seize, search and arrest anywhere in the country could spill over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that was hurriedly created by Parliament after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The NIA Act gave the agency the power to arrest and prosecute suspects anywhere in the country even without the concurrence of the state government concerned.CPI leader D Raja said no one detected the controversial section in the amendments made to UAPA that empowers the NCTC — or any designated official at the centre — to make arrests.
"The NIA Act and UAPA amendments were passed by Parliament in the weeks after the Mumbai attacks when there was an atmosphere of panic," Raja said.
He said it was time to review jurisdictional problems in the NIA Act as well, which was created overstepping the constitutional boundaries.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the BJP will, for now, focus on the NCTC only, which was an intelligence agency. "Nowhere in the world does a secret agency have powers to arrest."
In the months after Parliament passed NIA and UAPA amendment laws, Home Minister P Chidambaram had reportedly confided to the US's Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Muller that he had come "perilously close to crossing constitutional limits" in empowering the NIA. Chidambaram, according to a US Embassy cable accessed via WikiLeaks, had explained to Muller India did not have the concept of a federal crime since law & order was the responsibility of the state governments.
Ajai Sahni, Executive Director at the Institute for Conflict Management agreed, convinced that both NIA Act and the proposed NCTC run foul of the Constitution. "The Centre cannot arrogate to itself policing powers," he said, insisting that the proposed NCTC will, in any case, not help fight terrorism.