Saturday, May 5, 2012

P Chidambaram’s Opening Statement at CM’s Meeting on NCTC

            The Union Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram addressed the Chief Ministers’ Meeting on  National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in New Delhi today. Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh chaired the meeting. Following is the text of Home Minister’s opening remarks:

            “I welcome you to this meeting of the Chief Ministers to discuss an important subject.  We met a little over two weeks ago and I deeply appreciate that the Chief Ministers have been able to find the time to meet once again.  I thank the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers for their gracious presence. I also thank my colleagues in the Central Government for kindly accepting our invitation.  

            The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed by Parliament in 1967.  No one has questioned the validity of the Act.  After the horrific attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, there was an universal demand for strengthening the laws dealing with terrorism.  Since Parliament was in session, it was decided to act without loss of time.  All political parties joined together and unanimously passed two legislations: Act 34 of 2008 which is the National Investigation Agency Act and Act 35 of 2008 to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.  

            In amending the UA(P)A, Parliament was mindful of its obligations not only to the people of India but to the international community as well.  The preamble to the UA(P)A was amended and a reference was made to Resolution 1373 and other Resolutions of the Security Council requiring all Member States to take measures against terrorists and terrorist organisations and to the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007.  

            A ‘terrorist act’ was defined more comprehensively.  ‘Court’ was defined to include ‘Special Court’.  New offences were added under Chapter IV.  In Chapter VII, new sections 43A to 43F were inserted.  A Schedule was added listing the 32 terrorist organisations as well as the organisations listed in the Order of 2007.  With respect, I submit each one of these amendments was made after careful consideration, wide consultations and reasoned debate in Parliament.    

            In a note circulated earlier - and included in the agenda notes circulated for this meeting at pages 3-7 - we have dealt with the genesis, objectives, structure and powers of the National Counter Terrorism Centre.  The note draws attention to section 2(e) of UA(P)A that provided for a ‘Designated Authority’.  When section 43A was drafted, it was based on section 2(e) that was already part of the Act.  The decision to vest certain powers in the Designated Authority was a conscious decision taken by Parliament.  At the same time, Parliament took care to limit the exercise of powers under section 43A to cases where an offence under UA(P)A had been committed or there was a design to commit such an offence.  Further limitations were placed through sections 43B and 43C.  In fact, section 43B is a clear acknowledgement of the exclusive power of the State Government to register a case and deal with the arrested person or the seized article.  

            Although the Amendment Act was brought into force on 31.12.2008, it was only in December, 2009 that I was able to draw the outline of a new security architecture. We took note of the experience of other countries.  In the US, the NCTC has the mandate to conduct CT operations involving all elements of national power.  There are also the FBI and the Secret Service with nationwide jurisdiction.  In Germany, there is the GTAZ (Joint Counter Terrorism Centre) and the GIZ (Joint Internet Surveillance Centre).  In the Indian context, the National Counter Terrorism Centre, that will be an important pillar of the new security architecture, is based on the following premises:

1.         That, under the Constitution of India, countering terrorism is a shared responsibility of the Central Government and the State Governments;

2.         That terrorists do not recognise boundaries between countries or boundaries between States belonging to a country;

3.         That many terrorist organisations have foot prints in several countries and have the capacity to commit terrorist acts across borders or boundaries;

4.         That human resources alone are not sufficient to counter terrorism; technology is the key weapon in this conflict.

5.         That we have obligations to the international community under the Resolutions of the Security Council.

6.         That given India’s 7516 km coastline, 15,106 km of international borders with seven countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar) and a number of international gateways, State Anti-Terrorist Forces would have to necessarily work with a number of agencies of the Central Government, especially when there are threats in the domain of sea, air and space. 

            I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a new dimension to terrorist threats.  Hitherto, we confronted terrorist threats only in the physical space.  Now, there are terrorist threats in the cyber space, which is the fifth domain after land, sea, air and space.  Much of our critical infrastructure lies in cyber space.  Cyber crimes such as hacking, financial fraud, data theft, espionage etc. would, in certain circumstances, amount to terrorist acts. Our counter terrorism (CT) capacity must be able to meet the threats in cyber space. Since there are no boundaries in cyber space, how will the Central Government and the State Governments share the responsibility to face the threats in cyber space?

            When we last met, I had shared with you the good news that, in 2011 and until March, 2012, 21 terror modules had been neutralised, and that one half of the cases had been cracked through the joint efforts of the Central Agencies and the State Police concerned.  Today, I wish to share with you the other side of the picture.  There are cases where, despite inputs regarding the presence of terrorists, the security agencies concerned did not act either due to lack of capacity or lack of a timely decision. Most of these cases concerned so-called ‘jihadi’ terrorists and cadres of CPI (Maoist).  What should the Central Government do in such cases?

            Two days ago, Central agencies received specific inputs on an imminent terrorist attack.  Several States were notified and specific targets were identified.  Suppose it was a Central agency alone which had the opportunity to interdict the movement of the suspected terrorists, and if action had to be taken within hours or minutes, should the Central agency have the power and the duty to act immediately or not?  

            Ladies and Gentlemen, I have tried to place before you – and the people of this country – the rationale behind the NCTC and a Designated Authority.  I am sure you would have noticed that the power to name a Designated Authority under section 2(e) is concurrent.  Hence, we would welcome it if your State Government also designates its Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) as the Designated Authority of your State.

            I would now draw your kind attention to paragraph 6.1 of the Order notifying the NCTC.  That paragraph is the key to understand how the NCTC will discharge its responsibilities.  Paragraph 6.1 stipulates that “The Standing Council shall ensure that NCTC is the single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures.”  Following the usual practice when a new body is created, we have circulated two Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs).   One deals with the functions and powers of the Standing Council and the other deals with the Operations Division of the NCTC.  I sincerely hope that the two SoPs would address all the concerns raised by some Chief Ministers in their letters to the Prime Minister and the issues flagged by the Directors General of Police at the meeting convened by the Home Secretary on March 12, 2012.  

            In closing, I wish to assure you and the people of India that counter terrorism is a shared responsibility.  That is what the Constitution says, that is the practical and prudent way forward.  As State Governments build more capacity and inter-State cooperation becomes more effective, I suppose the Central Government can – and will – step back.  Meanwhile, we have to work together. Working together – State Governments and the Central Government working together, the Opposition and the Treasury working together, civil society organisations and Government institutions working together – I am confident we can make the country more safe and more secure.

            I look forward to an illuminating discussion and I seek your support to establish the NCTC.

            Thank you.”

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