Tuesday, March 13, 2012

National Counter Terrorism Centre Of India: The Problems and Solutions

This is the research analysis of Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) regarding the legality, constitutionality, requirements, etc of establishment of national counter terrorism centre of India. Perry4Law and PTLB have outlined all the legal constitutional and administrative issues at a single place so that parliament of India, home ministry and Indian government can consider the same. Perry4Law and PTLB hope that this analysis would be useful for all concerned.

National counter terrorism centre (NCTC) of India has been facing many ups and downs. This is despite the fact that national counter terrorism centre (NCTC) of India is required to meet the growing national security requirements of India.

However, there are many constitutional, legal and administrative challenges that NCTC is facing. In the past the NCTC of India was downsized in its nature, scope and functions. Now NCTC of India is facing stiff oppositions from various States that consider establishment of NCTC as an encroachment upon their law and enforcement powers and federalism features of Indian constitution.

However, these objections and oppositions are mostly politically motivated and are not truly striking at the real problem from which NCTC has been suffering. The real issue that must be demanded by political parties is that parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies of India is needed. Till now there is no parliamentary scrutiny of the intelligence agencies in India.

Indian Government is too reluctant to ensure parliamentary oversight for intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies of India. If this is not enough, Indian government has been launching new projects having serious “constitutional ramifications” and “civil liberties violation” effects.

For instance, the national counter terrorism centre (NCTC) project of India, national intelligence grid (Natgrid) project of India, Aadhar project of India, crime and criminal tracking network and system (CCTNS), etc are not governed by any legal framework and parliamentary oversight. Indian government is not willing to understand and accept that intelligence work is not an excuse for non accountability.

For some strange reasons intelligence infrastructure of India has become synonymous for non accountability and mess. There is neither any parliamentary oversight nor and transparency and accountability of the working of intelligence agencies of India.

Even a basic level effort to enact a legal framework for intelligence agencies of India is missing in India. The first and foremost challenge to such parliamentary oversight mechanism comes from the intelligence agencies themselves that do not wish to be governed by any rules and norms at all. Then we have “bureaucratic hurdles” in India that do not allow such a legal framework to be proceeded with. Finally, the parliament of India itself is not interested in bringing these intelligence agencies within the fold of parliamentary oversight.

Take the example of the recent private bill titled intelligence services (powers and regulation) bill, 2011. It was shelved out by none other than the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who announced that law on intelligence agencies would be formulated soon. However, it proved nothing but a “time gaining tactics” and so far intelligence agencies of India are not governed by any legal framework and parliamentary oversight. Interestingly, even the central bureau of investigation (CBI) is riding the same boat. The draft central bureau of investigation act, 2010 is another example where the Indian government is just interested in making “declaration” with no actual “intention” to implement the same.

In these circumstances, can the States trust the Centre regarding the establishment of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) of India? The answer is definitely negative even if States keep their “political interests” aside. Of course, there are “practical difficulties” and “internal turf war” among various agencies and ministries of Central government a well. It seems the obvious but unsolvable terrorism dilemma in India would continue as national interest of India and fighting terrorism is not a “national priority”.

Till now the constitutionality of the national investigation agency act 2008 (NIAA 2008) has not been accepted by States and now NCTC has been launched through an “executive order”. The practice of clubbing new projects, agencies and institutions with existing laws is a bad approach. So NCTC without a legal framework is definitely unconstitutional and even tagging it with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 would not save it from the patent and apparent unconstitutionality with which it is suffering.

The NCTC project of India is also “very significant” for the national security of India. Terrorist attacks against India are on increase and we need a “specilaised institution” like NCTC to provide and analyse valuable intelligence inputs and leads.

The real problem seems to be “lack of coordination and harmonisation” between the Centre and States. The Constitution of India has made a clear demarcation between the legislative, executive and judicial powers of Centre and State. The NIAA 2008 and NCTC are sitting at the “border line” of the legislative and executive powers of Centre that can be challenged by various States.

The intentions of Home Minister Mr. P.Chidambaram are good but the concerns of States are also of equal force. Further, the turf war between multiple intelligence agencies operating under different government ministries is also causing problem for the successful establishment of NCTC. Even there is a lack of proper planning and management on the part of Union Home Ministry that is causing delayed implementation of projects like Natgrid, NCTC, CCTNS, etc.

If Mr. P. Chidambaram really wants his projects to become successful, he has to think well beyond the present “parameters and objectives” set by Indian government in general his own ministry in particular. A good starting point can be formulation of a “constitutionally sound legal framework” that can confer legitimacy and constitutionality to projects like NATGRID, NCTC, CCTNS, etc. Obviously, States must be taken into confidence before starting any such legislative exercise.

This must be supplemented by sound planning and management. The projects of Home Ministry are neither simple nor easy to execute. They required dedicated efforts from all directions. Experts from diverse fields must be on panel of Home Ministry so that these Projects can be successfully implemented. We are sure Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram would have already considered these aspects and we wish all the best to him in this regard.

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