NCTC’s Tryst with the Principle of Decentralization of Power

Last week the Union Cabinet sanctioned a very bold program which was precisely a picture perfect example of the Union Government superbly practicing all that it had been preaching since quite a while. Post 26/11, the then Home Minister was made to resign and P Chidambaram vacated the Finance Ministry to take over the reins of the Home Ministry. P Chidambaram envisaged an effective National Counter Terrorism Centre to tackle terrorism in India. He emphasized that the creation of such an institution, wholly devoted to the cause of countering terrorism, was necessary to sabotage terror plots against the nation.

Chidambaram launched a blitz of institutions to strengthen the anti-terrorism armoury of the country but Chidambaram’s idea of tackling terrorism in India was in contradiction to the principle of decentralization of power which has been a fundamental policy being actively carried forward by the incumbent government. Chidambaram wanted the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to act like a parent body and advocated in the favour of bringing agencies like the NSG, NIA, NATGRID etc under the umbrella of the NCTC to give buoyance to the proposed institution. The Union Cabinet gave a go-ahead to the setting up of the NCTC but it refused to entertain Chidambaram’s plea to subsume institutions like the NIA and NSG under the ambit of the NCTC. What does this signify? It shows the zeal with which the government is committed to ensuring the propagation of decentralization of power.

The Government refused to accept the draft Jan-Lokpal Bill because it was a similar sort of a proposal where the demand was to circumscribe institutions like the CVC and the CBI under the Lokpal, the placement of the citizen’s charter under the ambit of the Lokpal, bestowing the Lokpal with suo-moto power and giving it powers of preliminary inquiry, investigation, prosecution and other departmental powers. The Government courageously struck down the proposal since the proposal aimed at loading a single institution with all possible powers. Chidambaram’s vision for NCTC sounded a bit similar but the government passed a different version of it.

What we need to realize is that no matter which issue is to be dealt with, be it corruption or terrorism, it has to be dealt by a medley of institutions working in active coordination and consonance with one another, not by a single omnipresent body. The Government is deeply committed to address all such burning issues but at the same time it is the Government’s responsibility to hold up the spirit of decentralization of power. Just because the Government doesn’t clear proposals wanting to create centralized institutions and instead gives its nod to creation of institutions undertaking the task prescribed by means of sharing powers and responsibilities, it doesn’t mean that it is wilfully trying to weaken institutions and is not enough committed to address the concerns facing the nation. What we must correctly comprehend is that decentralization of duties and power is the primary step towards addressing any concern. A lot of troublesome concerns have persisted just because a single institution based in Delhi has tried to slug around with it. With the power of legislating let us create institutions and not dismantle institutions, let us strengthen the Executive and let us not weaken it.