New Delhi: Even a watered-down proposal for anti-terror hub NCTC still appeared a non-starter with non-Congress states on Wednesday strongly opposing its setting up while the Centre warned them that the country will have to pay a price if it does not come into existence.
At the conference of Chief Ministers, convened to discuss internal security issues, skipped by Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik attacked the proposal as infringing on the principles of federalism.
They felt the idea was to essentially create a "federal police" which is an "alien" concept to the country.
Stung by the criticism, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the architect of NCTC, said the opposition to the idea was "unfortunate, wrong and deeply regrettable" and that the country will have to pay a price from time to time if it does not come into existence.
After Sushilkumar Shinde took over as Home Minister from Chidambaram, changes were made in the wake of the opposition from non-Congress Chief Ministers to make NCTC acceptable to them.
Among the changes proposed were that NCTC would be taken out of the ambit of IB, its operations would be conducted in consultation with state governments and the Central government would send special forces only with the consent of states.
Modi said the creation of the new institution or organisation of this nature should be done only after having a complete unanimity amongst the Centre and the states.
"The inability of the Centre to coordinate efforts with states to achieve consensus on such issues emanates from the unwillingness on its part to recognise the states as equal partners in handling issues related to internal security. It also exhibits a strong sense of one-upmanship and contempt for the constitutional division of powers," he said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa slammed the Centre for the `ham-handed manner` in which it sought to set up NCTC and alleged the UPA government was increasingly taking unilateral steps and creating top-down structures and parallel authorities that encroach upon the constitutional domain of state governments.
"This is an ill-informed and counter-productive approach best illustrated by the ham-handed manner in which the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has been sought to be established," she said in a speech read out in her absence.
Jayalalithaa recalled that at a conference held by the Centre on the issue in May last year she had exhaustively conveyed her government`s Opposition to NCTC on various grounds including doubts about its operative effectiveness and had written to the Prime Minister in December 2012 that no proactive step should be taken to set it up without consultation with the state.
Referring to the proposed NCTC, Patnaik said no direct or indirect interference in the state`s autonomy will be "tolerated" and federal rights should be "respected and protected.
He said though the central government made "some changes suggested by us in the proposed NCTC, all the issues have still not been addressed".
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Madhya Pradesh`s Shivraj Singh Chouhan, West Bengal`s Mamata Banerjee and Bihar`s Nitish Kumar too criticised the Centre`s move saying it was against the federal structure of country.
Commenting on Modi`s statement that the country lacks a strong anti-terror law, Chidambaram said UAPA has adequate provisions to deal with terror cases but what the country needed was instruments like NCTC to implement the law.
"He (Modi) wants an anti-terror law or strengthening of anti-terror law. Actually, he wants to bring back TADA and POTA. 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.
The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister said NCTC should be ratified by Parliament to make it responsible and answerable to people.
Singh said NCTC should not be given powers similar to that envisaged in the NIA Act among others by allowing it to probe terror related cases without state`s consent.
"We are opposed to NCTC in its present state. We want that if NCTC comes into existence, it should respect the federal structure of our Constitution. The participation of states in NCTC should not get reflected only on paper," he said.
Holding that the revised draft order of NCTC suffers from several "serious flaws" and "arbitrary" provisions, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asked the Centre to seek Parliament`s nod through a wider debate for creating the federal anti-terror agency.
"Firstly, what is the use of creating an operation division within NCTC and giving powers of conducting such operations, if such operations are to be conducted either through or in conjunction with state police?" he said.
Sukhbir Singh Badal said NCTC would give the Centre powers to tactically intervene in internal affairs of states.
Badal said the system of sharing of intelligence by Home Ministry was effectively working and instead of frittering away energy on the new body not acceptable to any state, the Centre should fully support states in their capacity-building efforts.
Accusing the Centre of taking unilateral decisions on internal security matters, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan strongly opposed NCTC citing practical difficulties.
"I regret to say that despite all-round opposition, the Central government is bent upon setting up NCTC. Of course certain amendments have been made in the proposed new order, still they do not resolve the practical difficulties," he said.
Mamata Banerjee said "like many other states, West Bengal too is of the opinion that the proposed version of NCTC upsets the federal structure of the country".
Earlier, inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Naxal violence has no place in a democracy and the Centre and state governments must work together to deal with the "very grave threat" posed by Maoists.
Condemning the recent Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, he asked states to come up with some concrete measures to deal with the threat.
Singh said time has come to view the challenges of terrorism, communal violence and Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, rising above narrow, political and ideological divides.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed Pakistan for trying to revive Sikh militancy and said youth are being trained in ISI facilities to carry out terror attacks in the country.
He said there have been significant developments on the Sikh militancy front and its commanders based in Pakistan are under pressure from ISI to further the Pakistani intelligence agency`s terror plans not only in Punjab but also other parts of India.