No final decision on NCTC yet: Chidambaram

New Delhi, May 5: Indicating that the NCTC’s formation is set for a long haul, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday said the final decision on the anti-terror body was yet to be taken.

Chidambaram said at a press conference here after a day-long meeting of chief ministers that the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) invited “outright rejection” from three of the 24 chief ministers, who attended the deliberations.

However, many of the chief ministers provided “strong support” and others “qualified support” to the move to have the NCTC.

“No decision has been taken as yet. The final decision has not been taken,” Chidambaram said.

He sounded tired and exhausted, having put in efforts to convince the chief ministers on NCTC by providing them with two standard operating procedures that explained the agency’s functioning and powers.

Among those chief ministers who called for a rollback of the NCTC at the meeting were Congress ally Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu’s J. Jayalalithaa and Gujarat’s Narendra Modi.

Among those who opposed the overarching powers for NCTC to conduct raids and arrests in states included another United Progressive Alliance constituent, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference.

The only time Chidambaram sounded positive at the press conference was when he said that all chief ministers, however, clearly “recognised and maintained the distinction between the need for NCTC or a similar organisation, and the powers and functions of the organisation.”

Asked about questions being raised by Congress chief ministers in the conference, Chidambaram said they raised the issue of why the NCTC should come under the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

He admitted that several chief minister had questioned the centre’s decision to keep NCTC under the IB and on its powers to carry out raids and arrests in the states without prior intimation to the states even if it was under exceptional circumstances.

The home minister, however, noted that his original idea was to have a stand-alone anti-terror hub through an executive order. But the government decided to have the agency under the IB, he added.

To another query if the central government would consider giving NCTC a statutory status, the home minister said this could be considered later.

“We will eventually examine (the issues raised) and the government will take the final decision,” he said, adding he had asked the dissenting chief ministers that the “gaps” in fighting terrorism “will not be filled in by normal police officers”.

“We feel NCTC can fill that gap. If not the NCTC, then some other body and that body has to be given some powers,” the minister said.

“All their suggestions would be carefully examined. I came to the conference with an open mind and I left the conference with an open mind,” said a disappointed home minister.

IANS