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NCTC flouts ‘sacrosanct’ tenet: Nitish

Patna, May 5: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today described the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) as an instrument that violates the “sacrosanct” principle of federalism and demanded that the Centre immediately withdraw it in its current form.

“I am disturbed to see the sacrosanct principle of federalism being violated in course of the Centre’s anti-terrorism onslaught,” Nitish said at the conference on NCTC convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. “The order issued to set up NCTC also suffers from several legal and procedural defects.”

The chief minister questioned the very structure adopted to set up NCTC. “The structure for the creation of NCTC suffers from serious and basic flaws as it has been created within the Intelligence Bureau which is a secret intelligence organisation without any accountability to Parliament or the court,” he said.

Nitish, who was accompanied by Bihar director-general of police Abhyanand and home secretary Amir Subhani, pointed that the secret intelligence agencies had never been given powers to arrest either in post-Independent or pre-Independent India. “Such powers, if given to (the) secret intelligence agency of (the) central government, will remain prone to misuse against political rivals as evident from the fact that eminent political leaders were branded as threat to national security and put behind bars during the Emergency (1975-77),” he said.

Pointing out another legal “defect” that the proposed centre suffered from, Nitish said the NCTC in its current format was supposed to hand over the arrested person/persons to the local officer in-charge who would further investigate and adopt legal procedures for remanding the accused to judicial custody.

“What will happen if the local police find the charges to be untrue or discover evidence of false implication of a suspect?” Nitish asked. “Will they (local police) not be legally required to submit a final report leading to the possibility of pressure from the victim or the civil right bodies to initiate the process of law under sections 182/211 of the IPC against NCTC officials who had executed the arrest?”

The chief minister, however, offered options if the Centre still deemed it prudent to constitute the NCTC. “If the Centre is desirous to constitute the NCTC, it must give the agency the power to investigate also. Further, any such outfit, if it has to be created at all, must be set up through legislation by Parliament,” he said.

Another feasible option, Nitish said, would be the empowerment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to arrest as well as investigate all terror-related cases. “NIA being a premier investigating agency should have no difficulty in getting entrusted with full powers as well as responsibility in respect of terror-related crimes,” he said.

Nitish said the Union home ministry orders had made it abundantly clear that NCTC was not an investigating agency. It was at best a coordinating body for collecting and sharing intelligence apart from conducting some operations. “But in our criminal justice system the investigating agencies which are creatures of legislations are only accountable to the courts,” he said.