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Jaitley lists terror hub terms

New Delhi, Feb. 25: Arun Jaitley today said while there could possibly be no objection to creating a national counter-terrorism centre, its powers and jurisdictions must be within the constitutional framework.

As the Centre’s intent to set up such a centre acquired a sense of urgency after the Hyderabad blasts, the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader voiced his concerns over it.

In a long statement he issued, Jaitley said combating terrorism was the “combined responsibility” of the Centre and the states. Explaining why the combat must co-exist with federalism, he wrote: “Terrorism impacts the sovereignty of India. It also impinged on both public order and law and order. Under our constitutional scheme, the defence of India is the responsibility of the central government.

“Public order and police fall within the domain of the states. The fight against terrorism can and must co-exist with federalism. It would be meaningless to debate an imaginary ‘federalism versus terrorism’ issue.”

Detailing the division of powers between the Centre and the states, Jaitley said “collecting information and keeping an eye on the activities of those who foment trouble from outside” was the Centre’s domain. So also, gathering national intelligence and passing the relevant information to the states for which the Centre was already empowered through the National Investigative Agency or NIA.

“Why does the central government need to give police powers to the NCTC which would otherwise be under the domain of the NIA or the state police?” he asked.

Questioning the proposal to constitute the NCTC under the intelligence bureau (IB), Jaitley warned that it would be “dangerous to vest the powers of search, seizure and arrest, i.e., the operational powers to an intelligence agency.”

The IB’s functioning, he said, was “secret”, it was a “non-statutory body” and its budget and spending had no accountability. He alleged that lately the IB’s focus had moved away from “security-related activities to political and quasi-political activities”.

He said there was “no reason” why the state police could not be trusted with conducting anti-terror functions and advocated an NIA intervention in “extraordinary cases”.