BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad tells Shonali Ghosal that the proposed NCTC will undermine the federal structure
What is the BJP’s main opposition to the Centre’s notification on the National Counter-Terrorism Centre? The BJP is clear that the menace of terrorism has to be firmly dealt with. And there has to be proper coordination between the Centre and the states. The police power is with the state governments and they should be taken on board. Even with the NIA, many state governments had reservations but we supported it. The NCTC is basically an intelligence authority; it is to work under the IB. In all democratic societies, intelligence agencies don’t have the power of arrest. They can share information, gather intelligence, leave it to the police or security forces. Now, a counter-terrorism centre is being given the powers of arrest. Even the IB doesn’t have it. You must have the widest consultation possible. For the first time, so many CMs cutting across ideological and political divides have similar concerns.
So is the BJP worried about the intelligence agency getting power to arrest or other provisions of the notification? We don’t know the provisions of the notification, it is yet to come in the public domain. It will be made public on 3 March. But if so many CMs are objecting, the PM must call them and have the widest consultations possible.
What are your reservations? That you can go and arrest anyone. Let me put it bluntly, the record of the UPA government in dealing with the state governments’ concerns is highly dubious. Everywhere, they are seeking to usurp power, which can be dangerously invoked against the interest of the state governments.
But if we are talking about scope of misuse, wasn’t Binayak Sen arrested by the Chhattisgarh government under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? The scope of misuse is separate from the existence of power. Federal institutions are a basic structure of the Constitution. This means that we MPs cannot even amend the Constitution so as to weaken those principles. Can you bypass that process by an executive order? These are only initial comments but there has to be larger and detailed consultation. The concerns have to be addressed.
Considering that we don’t have an anti-terror law after the lapse of TADA and POTA, isn’t it necessary to have one? Then the suspicion is all the more enforced. What were the arguments given in POTA? That the intelligence agencies didn’t have this power. About POTA being abused, even the IPC and Income Tax law are abused. That is a separate chapter. The issue here is the rights of the state government.
But didn’t the BJP initially welcome the idea of forming the NCTC when it was shot down after the 26/11 attacks? We had said that a national counter-terrorism agency is a good instrument. We want all the instruments in the fight against terror to be strengthened but the question is: what power are you giving? Intelligence agencies, including the IB in India, are not given the power of arrest and seizure.
What’s the alternative, in your view? The alternative is a question of detail when you know the mind of the government. We don’t know it. We have only seen the home secretary making a comment. Has Mr Chidambaram held any press meet? In the past week, this issue has been engaging the attention of the people, it is in the public discourse. Have you heard any proper response?