Maharashtra Home minister Anil Deshmukh Saturday said he has sought legal opinion from the Advocate General of Maharashtra on the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to inquire into the Elgaar Parishad case even as the Home department has given consent for the transfer of the investigation into the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“Even if the case has been transferred to the NIA, I have submitted a note to the advocate general seeking legal opinion whether the state can form a SIT for this case. If the legal opinion is in favour, then the state will form a SIT…,” Deshmukh said. He was addressing mediapersons during his visit to the Pune police commissionerate Saturday.
Deshmukh belongs to the NCP, which is part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, in alliance with the Congress and Shiv Sena.
On Friday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had raised questions about the arrests of activists in the Elgaar Parishad case, and had demanded a SIT probe into the action taken by Pune City Police, which he claimed was an attempt to curb the “freedom of speech” in democracy. Pawar had also demanded action against police officers who had investigated the case.
Asked if he planned to take action against these police officers, Deshmukh said, “I have a meeting with Sharad Pawar on Sunday. I will discuss this issue with him during the meeting.”
Following the allegations made by Pawar, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh had held a review meeting on January 23 with the police personnel probing the case. The next day, the NIA took over the probe and lodged a separate FIR in Mumbai.
Pawar and Deshmukh had then attacked the central government, claiming that the case was transferred to the NIA “out of the fear of getting exposed”.
The state had also opposed the NIA application in Pune special court, seeking transfer of the case records to the special NIA court , saying the plea was not “legally tenable”. However, on February 12, the state Home department gave a letter signed by its officer Amar Zaware to the director general of police, saying the government has given its consent for the transfer of the case to the NIA. Pune City Police submitted this letter before the Pune special court on Friday, stating they have no objection to sending all case to the NIA court.
Taking note of the Home department’s letter, Special Judge S R Navandar passed an order in favour of NIA on Friday.
Even though the letter was issued by his department, Deshmukh on February 13 indicated that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had “overruled” his party’s stand by withdrawing any objections to the NIA taking over investigations into the Elgaar Parishad case.
During the press conference in Pune on Saturday, Deshmukh again said, “The CM has the power to overrule the home minister.”
Pune City Police had booked 23 people in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case for their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist. Nine of the accused, most of them prominent activists, were arrested in 2018 and have been lodged in Pune’s Yerawada jail for one-and-a-half years.
Some of the accused in Elgaar Parishad case were also arrested in the past for alleged links with banned CPI-Maoist when the state Home ministry was under late NCP leader R R Patil. Asked whether he had objected to R R Patil over this action, Deshmukh replied, “No.”
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