Conceived by former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, adopted by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and aborted by states afraid of losing power, the concept of federal offences bounced back on Sunday with the Centre announcing its intention to convene a string of meetings with chief ministers, police chiefs and chief secretaries.
At these meetings, the Centre not only intends to push states to focus on capacity building — filling up vacancies and expanding the size of the state police force, upgrading equipment and strengthening the state intelligence wing — but also try convincing them to agreeing to have one central agency take over investigations into all serious blast cases.
In the absence of a central agency, police forces across five states are independently trying to track perpetrators and conspirators of terrorist attacks, right from those in Malegaon, Varanasi and Hyderabad to blasts in Ajmer and Jaipur. The states do share information with each other, but an official said the information flow is only a trickle.
Home Ministry officials acknowledged that the proposal sent to states as part of the Supreme Court’s observations on police reforms had met with stiff resistance from all states barring a handful of exceptions. Gujarat was among those that had opposed any move to tinker with the constitutional status, giving the states a free hand in handling law and order.
Patil — who had made a pitch for coordinated investigations into blasts — has watered down the original concept to make it politically more amenable to the states.
The home minister has proposed a committee in Delhi chaired by the union home secretary that would screen terrorist cases, which may be taken up for joint investigation by a central agency with the state police. The state police chief, under whose jurisdiction the case falls, would be a member of this committee to ensure that states had a role.
It isn’t just Gujarat that has dumped the idea, originally conceived by Advani. At a press conference in Ahmedabad, the BJP leader said he still favoured the concept, but he emphasised the need for a strong anti-terror law.