In a sworn affidavit to the Chhattisgarh High Court, Odisha Police have said that two residents of the state were illegally abducted by Chhattisgarh Police, who actively tried to scuttle their investigation into the kidnapping.
The affidavit also said that senior police officers of Chhattisgarh attempted to “manage the family members of the petitioners” and applied pressure on them to withdraw the case they had filed in Odisha. Considering the “gravity of the charges”, Odisha Police said, the case should be handed over to the NIA or CBI.
In July 2016, Niranjan Das and Durjoti Mohankundo were arrested by Bastar district police on charges of carrying explosives near the Nagarnar railway tracks, branded as Maoists and charged under the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and sections of the Arms Act. Earlier this year, Bastar Police’s investigation in the case was stayed by Chhattisgarh High Court, pending an investigation into the kidnapping charges, but Das and Mohankundo remain in Jagdalpur jail.
The petitioners have argued that Das and Mohankundo were picked up from Nuapada in Odisha, and not Bastar, by Chhattisgarh Police. In the days after their disappearance, the brothers of both accused approached the Judicial Magistrate in Kotpad, Odisha, who ordered state police on August 10, 2016 to register a case and begin investigations.
On Thursday, the Odisha government, which was made respondents to the case, submitted an affidavit in the court of Justice R C S Samant, confirming the charges against Chhattisgarh Police.
The affidavit states: “It is respectfully submitted (that) all the statements of different witnesses recorded under section 161 and section 164 of the CRPC prima facie establish the forcible kidnapping of those two persons from Nawagaon village in the state of Orissa. Due procedures and investigation has already been done and it is found that the people who have allegedly kidnapped and abducted the petitioners were… from Chhattisgarh Police.”
The affidavit adds: “It is also found during the investigation and enquiry that there was no information given to the respondents by those persons (Chhattisgarh Police) before taking into custody.”
The affidavit says: “It is further most humbly and respectfully submitted that in the investigation of the respondents, the fact of criminal conspiracy has also been revealed.” Odisha Police said that the statements of four witnesses “described in detail as to how the illegal abduction was committed by the Chhattisgarh Police”.
“Not only that, thereafter to manage all the legal proceedings, the family members of the petitioners were also called at the instance of Superintendent of Police Jagdalpur, and Inspector General of Police, Bastar. These two officers sent two persons named Jagan Mohan Reddy and Dr Jitendra Reddy to manage the family members of the petitioners for withdrawal of legal proceedings.,” states the affidavit.
“In… (a) conspiracy hatched by the top officials of Chhattisgarh Police, a meeting was organised at Hotel Apple Villa of Simliguda, District Koraput, where the family members were pressurised for withdrawal of the criminal cases against Chhattisgarh Police,” the affidavit says.
The Bastar IGP and Jagdalpur SP at the time, S R P Kalluri and R N Dash respectively, have been accused by activists of human rights excesses, and shunted out by the state government within days of each other this year after allegations of intimidation. Odisha Police have also accused Chhattisgarh Police of “making all efforts to frustrate the investigation of Orissa Police… in none of the occasion there were any cooperation or fair play in the eyes of the law by Chhattisgarh Police”.
Odisha Police also stated that there was audio and video proof of the “meeting arranged to settle the litigation filed by the petitioners”, which has been seized and “statements of the concerned persons” taken. “The statement of the manager of the hotel is also taken under section 161 who has also confirmed the allegation of the petitioners,” the affidavit says.
In the submission, the counsel for Odisha have asked for a probe by an investigating agency, which will have jurisdiction in Chhattisgarh as well. “…the present case and the matter be sent for appropriate investigation by the CBI or the NIA, looking to the seriousness and the gravity of the offence,” they said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, S C Verma, advocate for the petitioners, said, “The court has now asked the Odisha state to return with full documents on July 20, so they can be questioned by the counsel. We have also asked for a CBI or NIA enquiry given the seriousness of the charges.”
Asked about the charges against Chhattisgarh Police, D M Awasthi, Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations, Chhattisgarh, said, “This has not come to our notice thus far. But since the matter is going on in court, it is sub-judice and not much can be said. However, if there are any directions from the honourable court, they will be followed fully.”