Sharad Pawar criticises Uddhav government for letting NIA probe Elgar Parishad case

Sharad Pawar criticises Uddhav government for letting NIA probe Elgar Parishad case

Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thakceray. PTI file photo

Kolhapur, February 14

Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar on Friday criticised Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to let the NIA take over the investigation into the Elgar Parishad case from the state police.

Talking to reporters here, Pawar said it was not right on part of the Centre to hand over the probe into the case, which was with the Pune police, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as law and order was a state subject.

“It was not right for the Centre to hand over the investigation into the case to the NIA. But it was even more wrong for the state government to support the transfer of the case,” said Pawar.

The NCP is a key constituent of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and its leader Anil Deshmukh is the home minister.

The conduct of police and home department officials handling the case was objectionable, he said.

The NIA was entrusted the case at a time when the process of setting up an SIT was initiated by the state government, he said.

“Meetings took place between 9 am and 11 am (in Mumbai) and the Centre took the decision (to hand over the case to the NIA) at 3 pm (on January 25),” he said.

Pawar said it was not right for the Centre to encroach upon the rights of the state on law and order issue.

“The Maharashtra government should not have supported the Centre’s move,” the former Union minister said.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sanjay Kumar told PTI on Thursday that “the state home department has no objection to the case being entrusted to the NIA”.

On Thursday, Deshmukh said Thackeray had overruled him on the probe in the case, in which human rights activists have been arrested for alleged links with Maoists.

“State agencies were investigating the case, but the Centre handed over the investigation to the NIA. As Home Minister, my stand was that the Centre should have taken the state government into confidence before taking the decision.

“We were putting up our stand in the court in this direction. The Chief Minister has the right to overrule my stand,” Deshmukh had said.

The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government had initially criticised the Centre’s move to hand over the case to the NIA.

Deshmukh had then publicly expressed disapproval of the Centre’s move and termed it as against the Constitution.

On Friday, the Pune court hearing the Elgar Parishad case on Friday passed an order to transfer the case to a special NIA court in Mumbai.

Additional Sessions Judge S R Navander ordered that records and proceedings of the case be sent to the special NIA court in Mumbai, along with entire 'muddemal property' in sealed condition.

Before the judge passed the order, the prosecution submitted an application stating they do not have objection to the National Investigation Agency's plea seeking transfer of the case.

"At this juncture, the investigating officer of the state agency has produced an order of the state government dated 12/02/2020 thereby directing hand over of investigation of the case to NIA," the order said.

"Thus, it becomes clear that the state investigating agency is handing over the investigation to NIA and therefore there remained no question of entrustment of investigation to the NIA, which was raised by the accused," said the order.

The judge, in his order, directed the state police to hand over papers related to the investigation of the case to NIA.

"The agency (NIA) is directed to arrange for transportation of the record and proceedings, along with muddemal (related to the case)," read the order.

Judge Navander then directed that all the accused be produced before special NIA court in Mumbai on or before February 28.

The judge observed that the object and the purpose of NIA Act is to constitute an investigating agency at national level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security, and integrity of India.

"Having regard to the aim and object of the NIA Act, the order of investigation through NIA cannot be said to be illegal or improper. That apart, the order of the transfer of investigation to NIA has not been challenged nor it has been set aside. Therefore, this court has to abide by provisions of NIA Act," said the order.

The order further added that although the charge sheet has already been filed, some of the accused are yet to be arrested.

"Therefore, it cannot be said that the investigation in the case has been completed and nothing remains to be done by NIA. Section 173 (8) of CrPC empowers NIA to make further investigation even after filing of the charge sheet. It cannot be termed as re-investigation as argued on behalf of the accused," the judge said.

The court maintained that in the eyes of law it is not a transfer of case but sending the case to proper court due to lack of jurisdiction.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day. Pune Police have claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.

During the probe into the police, the Pune Police arrested Left-leaning activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links. PTI

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