EVEN AS a Pune court on Friday ordered transfer of the Elgaar Parishad case records to a special NIA court in Mumbai, NCP chief Sharad Pawar criticised the state government for clearing transfer of the case.
Speaking to reporters in Kolhapur, Pawar said: “As per the Constitution, law and order is a state subject. It is wrong to take away the rights of the state… 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.”
Pawar’s NCP is part of the ruling alliance, which includes the Shiv Sena and Congress, in the state.
On Thursday, State Home Minister and NCP MLA Anil Deshmukh had indicated that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, also the Sena president, had “overruled” him in the matter. “The state government was investigating the Elgaar Parishad case and suddenly, the Centre transferred the case to the NIA. We raised objections on the ground that the Centre should have taken the state into confidence… But the CM has the right to overrule the home minister, that is all I have to say,” he had said.
However, among the documents submitted to the court by the Pune police, which was investigating the Elgaar Parishad case, is a letter dated February 12, from the state home department to Maharashtra Director General of Police Subosh Jaiswal, stating that the government was “according an approval to transfer of the case to the NIA”.
The state home department had sought legal opinion on whether the Centre’s directive could be contested. Citing provisions of The National Investigation Act (2008), the state’s law department opined that Section 6(5) of the Act permits the Union government to transfer the case suo motu. According to the Section, “if the Central government is of the opinion that a Scheduled Offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under this Act, it may, suo motu, direct the Agency to investigate the said offence.”
Accordingly, Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar, investigating officer in the case, submitted before the special court in Pune that the government had given its consent for transferring the case to the NIA, so they had no objection to sending all records to the NIA court in Mumbai.
In his order on Friday, Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar said: “The investigating officer of state agency has produced an order of state government dated February 12, 2020, thereby directing handing over of investigation of the case to NIA. Thus, it becomes clear that state investigating agency is handing over investigation to NIA and therefore there remained no question of entrustment of investigation to the NIA.”
It ordered that all “records and proceedings” be sent to the NIA court and the accused be produced before the NIA court on or before February 28.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said “the speculation of a rift between the NCP and Shiv Sena is not true”. Saying that Thackeray was “strongly opposed” to transfer of the case, he said: “In an interview to Saamana last week, the CM had made it clear that he was against NIA taking over the case. He said the Maharashtra police was quite competent to handle the case.”
“I think since the Centre had already initiated the move, the CM must have allowed the NIA to take over the case and let Maharashtra Police continue its probe in the Bhima Koregaon case,” said Raut.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches at the Elgaar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, had contributed to the violence near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in the district the next day. Nine activists and academicians have been arrested in this connection.
On January 24, the Centre transferred the probe from the Pune police to the NIA, a day after Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh held a meeting to review the chargesheet filed against the accused. The state government had criticised the Centre’s decision.
Earlier, Pawar had written to the state government asking for an SIT to be set up to investigate the matter.
On January 29, the NIA moved a Pune court, seeking transfer of case papers, seized data, court records and proceedings to the special NIA court in Mumbai. Opposing the NIA’s plea, the state government had told the court that the application was “not legally tenable under the provision of law and particularly according to the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 1967 and NIA Act 2008.”
— With Manoj More in Pune
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