Updated: July 13, 2021 6:21:15 pm
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its affidavit opposing a petition by Elgaar Parishad accused Surendra Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale challenging the transfer of the probe to the central agency, said the two have been booked under scheduled offences, investigation of which can be taken over by central agencies from state investigators at any point of time.
The affidavit further contended that the petitions were meant to stall the probe initiated to unearth a “Naxal plague” that the agency is fighting in the country.
The NIA submitted the affidavit before the division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar. Gadling and Dhawale, along with others, have been behind bars since 2018 after being arrested by Pune Police in connection with the Elgar Parishad event organised in Pune in December, 2017. Pune Police had said that the event was part of a criminal conspiracy linked with the banned outfit CPI (Maoist). The case was transferred to the NIA on January 24, 2020.
The petition, filed through advocate Satish B Talekar, said there were no compelling reasons for the transfer of the case to NIA and that no provision empowers the Union government to transfer a probe after it has been completed and trial is set to commence. It added that the case was transferred “due to malafide and political expediency” when the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in the state proposed to constitute an SIT to probe the matter.
The petition, which also names former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, stated the two received “state shelter” despite being named in FIRs linked to the assault on Dalits visiting the Bhima Koregaon memorial on January 1, 2018.
“The police administration under the control and supervision of then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis conveniently ignored the serious offences committed by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote,” it added. The plea claimed that those who had been criticising the activities of the ruling party have been targeted.
The NIA, through an affidavit filed by Vikram Khalate, Superintendent of Police, Mumbai branch, said the allegations in the plea were made “recklessly with the sole purpose of misleading the HC…to thwart ongoing investigation” being carried out by the central agency. It added that the probes were being conducted “responsibly and most professionally” to unearth the truth and said that there was enough material against the accused, which was also acknowledged by the Supreme Court.
The central agency, through the affidavit stated, “…The petitioner had gone to the extent of scandalising and questioning the credibility of the NIA who are fighting for prevention of unlawful and terrorist activities in the country where the Naxal plague has caused destruction at many levels.”
The agency further said action taken against the accused was “solely based on incriminating material evidence” showing their involvement in the case and any commission of scheduled offences requires investigation from NIA and therefore transfer of probe as justified.
“There is no personal agenda against any accused persons in this case as is being projected by the petitioners. By trying to cast malafides against the NIA, the petitioners raised a direct attack on the criminal justice system. The present petitioners and the other accused persons in this case have made it a tradition to file writ petitions, PILs, directly or through others, particularly when an investigation is in progress,” the affidavit stated, adding, such instances are “nothing but sheer abuse of due process of law”.
HC is likely to hear the plea next on July 19.
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