After NCTC, states oppose changes to railway force Act

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 29 2012, 08:19am hrs
After protests by chief ministers over the setting up of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), it is the turn of a proposed amendment to the Railway Protection Force Act, 1957, to come under fire from various state governments as an encroachment on the rights of the states.

Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi have both shot off letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh protesting amendments to the RPF Act, 1957.

The proposed amendment is violative of article 246 of the Constitution of India. Public order and police are state subjects and taking up any

amendment on these subjects under entry 22, 30 and 93 of the Union list and entry 2 of the Concurrent list, without consulting the state governments, is a clear infringement of the powers of the states and against the basic federal structure of the Constitution," said Patnaik in his letter.

"I also understand that the amendments seek to provide police powers to the RPF personnel. This is itself violative of the Police Act, 1861," he adds. Patnaik adds that the arguments put forward by the railways, that they should be given powers to arrest so that they can investigate does not hold water "as railway tracks run through states" and that this could allow other forces such as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to ask for similar powers.

While the proposal to set up the NCTC has been postponed pending consultations with state Director Generals of Police, it would be interesting to see the direction this controversy takes.

In the past, government ally and West Bengal chief minister had added her

considerable weight behind this move by chief ministers of nearly 10 states to

block the NCTC. The RPF Act, 1861, amendment may be a different matter as it is a portfolio that lies with Banerjee's own Trinamool Congress.

With the Budget session looming, the government needs all its friends in good humour and the opposition quiet in order to have a peaceful session. That hope, it now appears, is a misplaced.