Rejecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's contention -- that the National Counter Terrorism Centre is a poorly conceived idea -- the Centre on Wednesday said the country will have to pay a 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 NCTC.
"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 in its present modified version. If this NCTC is opposed, I am afraid, as I said, the country will pay a 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 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 the NCTC along with amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the National Investigation Agency Act and the Multi Agency Centre in December 2008 after the 26/11 terror attack, it would have got approval of all the states.
"Some chief ministers are talking about giving safeguards on the 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 had 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 the 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 concerned state police 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 the 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 the UAPA has adequate provisions to deal with terror cases but the country still needed instruments like the 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 the 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 the anti-terror law. Actually he wants to bring back Terrorist and Disruptive Activities and Prevention of Terrorism Act. 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.