NCTC: 5 yrs on, Centre takes first step towards reviving umbrella anti-terror body
Having the NIA under the NCTC’s ambit would allow the new body to prosecute terror suspects without having to depend on a separate legal framework.
The Union government has taken its first concrete step towards reviving the controversial National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), an all-encompassing body of Indian security agencies, to counter terror threats.
Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi held an hour-long meeting with Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Rajiv Jain and National Investigation Agency (NIA) head Sharad Kumar on Thursday to discuss the structure and legal framework of the NCTC.
Sources said the new body may be designed as an umbrella outfit encompassing all intelligence agencies – such as the IB, NIA, Research & Analysis Wing, National Technical Research Organisation, National Intelligence Grid and National Security Guard. The agency chiefs will report to the NCTC head, who could be a four-star general.
“The home secretary sought the views of the IB as well as the NIA because they will play a pivotal role in the NCTC when it is formed,” said a home ministry official on the condition of anonymity. States would be consulted after negotiations with central stakeholders are completed, he added.
The official said having the NIA under the NCTC’s ambit would allow the new body to prosecute terror suspects without having to depend on a separate legal framework. “The NIA is already empowered to investigate and prosecute terror suspects across the country. Making a four-star general the NCTC head is one of the proposals under discussion.”
However, the IB was reportedly uncomfortable with the idea of a new government body usurping its position as the country’s main internal counter-terror agency.
The UPA government had originally conceived the NCTC as an all-encompassing anti-terror body, under which all security agencies would work together in a coordinated manner for integrating and analysing every piece of intelligence pertaining to terrorism. Modelled on the NCTC formed in the United States after the 9/11 attacks, it was expected to have powers to act on intelligence inputs as well.
Finally, a watered-down version of the NCTC was cleared by the UPA cabinet in 2012. The government order stated the body will work under the IB, and its operations wing will have the power to arrest and search under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
However, the power to arrest and search became a sore point with then chief ministers such as Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Nitish Kumar (Bihar). They opposed it on the grounds that central agencies cannot be given unilateral powers to act against terror suspects, considering that law-and-order is a state subject.