New Delhi, Oct 19: India’s bid to have a counter-terrorism unit on the lines of the US may get longer than expected with the union home ministry currently focusing on getting the amended unlawful activities law passed by parliament in the winter session later this year.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has conveyed to his officials to first focus on getting the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) passed by parliament during the winter session and then to take up the task of bringing about a consensus among the states in favour of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
“There is no movement on NCTC. We have been told to wait till UAPA is amended,” a source said here.
The NCTC, a controversial pet project of former home minister P. Chidambaram, was notified early this year and was to come into effect on March 1, but had to be kept in abeyance following protests from chief ministers of several opposition-ruled states.
The government had introduced the amended UAPA in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of 2011 and it was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs.
After the committee submitted its report earlier this year, it was expected that the draft law would be introduced during the monsoon session that ended early last month. But that did not happen.
Now, the ministry is gearing up to bring the amended UAPA bill for passing by Lok Sabha first and then by Rajya Sabha in the winter session beginning next month.
The amendments to the UAPA intend to expand the certain definitions under the law, including that of ‘person’ to extend to a Hindu undivided family, a company, an association, and an agency, and ‘proceeds of terrorism’ to extend to property used in a terror act, property obtained by the commission of a terror act, a property and an instrument intended for a terror act.
Shinde, who was given a thorough presentation on the NCTC, wanted to hold a chief ministers meet to clear their doubts on NCTC, but later went on the side of taking caution. Since taking over as the home minister nearly three months ago, Shinde has not spoken to any chief minister on the NCTC.
Among the chief ministers opposed to the NCTC include West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik, Tamil Nadu’s J. Jayalalitha and Gujarat’s Narendra Modi.
The chief ministers had reservations over the NCTC being armed with overarching powers to carry out raids and effect arrests, which they claimed would infringe upon their states’ responsibilities on maintaining law and order and criminal investigation.
Among the new ideas being considered by the home ministry for NCTC include keeping the unit out of the Intelligence Bureau, which is the internal snooping agency, and having it as an independent unit reporting directly to the home ministry.
The NCTC would carry out counter-terror operations only in case of an urgency and in rare cases for busting terror groups.
A meeting of state chief ministers convened when Chidambaram was still home minister earlier this year had failed to evolve a consensus and the move to have NCTC in its previous form was vehemently opposed by them.
The initial NCTC idea had wanted to bring in the existing multi-agency centre, an intelligence sharing unit, and the operations wing of the Intelligence Bureau under the counter-terrorism unit’s ambit.
The home minister had passed an ordinance making the NCTC the nodal agency under the UAPA.