NCTC: National Confusion on Terror by Centre
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management & SATP
The crisis in India today is one of capacities, and this cannot be addressed by the reinvention of institutional forms. It doesn’t matter if our responses are centralised or decentralised, as long as the executive agencies remain infirm, under-manned, under-trained and under-equipped.
...Our principal problems lie, not in architecture, but in manpower, materials and execution. We have eviscerated our institutions over decades, and now believe that the solution lies in creating layer upon layer of meta-institutions to ‘monitor’, ‘coordinate’ and ‘oversee’ this largely dysfunctional apparatus.
Counter-terrorism: The Architecture of Failure, November 24, 2011
The National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) is an ill-conceived, redundant and derivative, vanity project, which aspires to imitate its namesake in the US, without the strength, the sinews, the resources or the constitutional context that would make such aspirations attainable. And if the idea itself was bad, its execution has been infinitely worse, tainted by deception and sleight of hand, as the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ (UMHA) seeks to arrogate powers specifically excluded from its jurisdiction by the Constitution.
UMHA’s National Counter Terrorism Centre (Organisation, Functions, Powers and Duties) Order, 2012, has, unsurprisingly, run into trouble, with no less than 14 State Chief Ministers opposing the Centre’s move to create the NCTC, effective March 1, 2012. The Chief Ministers have rightly objected to the absence of any consultative process, as well as to specific clauses of the Order, principally including the power of arrest and seizure conferred upon the proposed NCTC’s Operations Division, purportedly under Section 43A of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.
In his letter of February 24, 2012, in response to the objections voiced by some of the Chief Ministers, Union Home Minister (UHM) P. Chidambaram has artfully argued that the powers conferred on the NCTC derive from the UAPA Amendments of December 2008, and that, when these were brought to Parliament, “There was no demur or opposition to either section 43A or the other amendments”. UMHA officials have argued, further, that when similar powers of arrest and seizure were given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), through its empowering Act of December 30, 2008, there were no objections regarding any perceived infringement of the Constitutional distribution of powers between the Union and the States. In other words, the States were now presented with a fait accompli and were being told, facetiously, that, having failed to object to the Centre’s jurisdictional enlargement in the past, they had lost their right to do so in the present and the future.
This, however, is evidently not the position UHM Chidambaram projects to his closer confidants. Indeed, if evidence of bad faith on the part of the Centre was required, it is provided by the Wikileaks disclosures regarding Chidambaram’s alleged conversation with FBI Director Robert Mueller at a meeting in New Delhi on March 3, 2009. According to the record cabled by US Chargé d’Affaires Steven White, “[Mr. Chidambaram] conceded that he was coming ‘perilously close to crossing constitutional limits’ in empowering the NIA. He explained the concept of a ‘federal' crime does not exist in India, with law and order the responsibility of the State Governments.” Further, Chidambaram “opined that the NIA law would be challenged in court because it ascribes certain investigative powers to the NIA which may be seen to conflict with responsibility that is exclusively with the States.”