The absence of a federal investigating mechanism is being acutely felt as investigators try to unravel the terror attacks that killed 40 people in Hyderabad last Saturday.
An agency for handling federal crimes with authority cutting across state borders remains on the drawing board. The reason: state governments failed to forge a consensus and develop a political will on the issue.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
• Security experts stress that offences like terrorism and currency counterfeiting should be designated as federal crimes and a Central agency be formed to deal with them. The agency would operate across state borders.
• The CBI comes close to it, but it cannot begin a probe without the consent of the state concerned.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy himself said his government did not have the wherewithal to go into intelligence operations beyond the state and national borders. This is exactly why security experts within and outside the government stress on designating offences like terrorism, counterfeit currency and gun-running as federal crimes and seek a Central agency to deal with them, much like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US.
“Every terrorist operation over the last few years is a result of a decentralised operation,” explained Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management. For instance, in the Mecca Masjid blasts in May, the explosives came from one place, the SIM card used in the mobile phone trigger came from another place, the bomb-maker was from Bangladesh and his handlers were located across the border in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Home Ministry officials emphasise that India needs an investigative machinery that can operate beyond state boundaries. In otherwords, an agency that can connect the dots to come up with the big picture. Otherwise, each state agency would only be looking at the dots on their side of the boundary.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the closest thing India has to the FBI. But the CBI is hamstrung because it has to take the consent of the states concerned before it can even begin investigations. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who expressed reservations about the possibility of a federal agency under the existing Constitutional scheme three years ago, has since revised his opinion.
Two months before the Mecca Masjid blasts, he told Parliament that it would be “very helpful” if certain offences could be treated as federal crimes and investigated by Central law enforcers. Patil made it clear that he needed the states’ cooperation for this.