Following the orders by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), a four-member team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached Moga Tuesday and started a probe in the Khalistan flag hoisting and the Tricolour desecration case of August 14.
On August 14, a day ahead of the Independence Day, three men identified as Inderjit Singh Gill (32), Jaspal Singh (26) and Akashdeep Singh (19), allegedly reached the office of Moga Deputy Commissioner and raised a saffron flag on its terrace with Khalistan written on it. While Inderjit and Jaspal allegedly hoisted the Khalistan flag, Akashdeep made a video with his phone, the Moga police said.
The police had said that the trio carried out the act on a call by US-based pro-Khalistan banned outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, a designated terrorist by the Government of India, who had offered $2,500 for the act. Later, Pannu’s name too was added to the FIR.
Now, on the orders of the MHA, the agency registered an FIR, accessed by The Indian Express, on September 5. It is the reproduction of the FIR that was registered by Moga police on August 14.
The NIA team, led by Inspector Ambrish Kumar Chaubey from Delhi, has taken over the probe in the case. The FIR registered by the NIA at its headquarters in Delhi reads, “The Central Government has received the information that on 14.08.2020, two youngsters managed to reach the terrace of a four-storey Deputy Commissioner office complex in Moga, Punjab, and hoisted a yellow-coloured flag with Khalistan written on it and while coming back, these miscreants cut the rope of the Indian National Flag hoisted near the main gate and dragged the Indian National Flag along with the rope and ran towards the outer gate which was an insult to the National Flag. In this connection the local police registered a case…The investigation conducted so far has revealed that the incident followed a general circulation of a message by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a terrrorist organisation, exhorting youth/radical Sikhs to hoist the Khalistan flag and videograph the incident.”
The NIA FIR notes, “That the investigation conducted so far has established the role of Gurpatwant Singh Pannu of SFJ, a designated terrorist on whose instigation the instant incident occurred and on his instructions the recorded video was shared by the accused persons extensively over the social media platforms…”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered the NIA to take over the probe in the case under sections 6 and 8 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, as per the orders issued on September 4.
An excerpt from the orders of the MHA reads, ‘The Central Government is of the opinion that the Scheduled Offence under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 has been committed and having regard to the gravity of the offence, it is required to be investigated by the NIA in accordance with the NIA Act, 2008. …. In exercise of the power conferred under the sub-section (5) of the section 6 read with section 8 of the NIA Act, 2008, the Central Government hereby directs the NIA to take up the investigation of the aforesaid case…’
In its action taken report, the NIA has said that it has registered a case dated September 5 at NIA Police Station, Delhi, and Ambrish Kumar Chaubey, Inspector, NIA Delhi, has been directed to take over the probe and has been appointed as the chief investigation officer (CIO).
When contacted, Inspector Chaubey said, “We are in Moga to probe the case and further details cannot be revealed.”
In an order by the NIA court in Mohali, dated September 7, Karunesh Garg, special judge, NIA, had ordered that all the case property and records of the case should be transferred from the court of Amandeep Kaur Chahal, chief judicial magistrate, Moga, to the NIA court in Mohali.
The Moga police has named seven accused in the case in its FIR registered at Moga city-1 police station: Jaspal Singh alias Appa and Inderjit Singh Gill, both from Rauli village of Moga; Akashdeep Singh alias Munna of Sadhu Wala village of Ferozepur; Gurpatwant Singh Pannu (named on August 20); Jagwinder Singh alias Jagga of Pakhowal village of Ludhiana; Ram Tirath alias Viban of Kapoore village of Moga and Rana (named on August 31).
While Jaspal and Inderjit allegedly hoisted the Khalistan flag and desecrated the Tricolour, Akashdeep made their video, which they sent to the WhatsApp numbers given by the SFJ, said the Moga police. Jagwinder Singh and Ram Tirath allegedly gave shelter to Jaspal and Inderjit when they were absconding, the police said. Jagwinder also allegedly instigated Inderjit to watch SFJ videos and vote for Referendum 2020 of SFJ, the police said. Pannu and Rana, both believed to be in the US, have been named in the FIR as representatives of the banned outlawed outfit SFJ which had announced cash rewards of $2,500 to $2,50,000 for the youths who would install Khalistan flags on government buildings and Red Fort in India ahead of the I-Day.
While initially the Moga police had registered an FIR for sedition, waging war against the government and accused were booked under sections 121, 121-A, 124-A, 153-A, 153-B of the IPC and Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honors Act, later the police also added sections 115 of the IPC, 67 of the Information Technology Act and sections 10, 11 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Except for US-based Gurpatwant Singh Pannu and Rana from SFJ, all five local accused have been arrested in the case.