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NIA opposes plea of Elgar accused: We are fighting Naxal plague, bid to thwart probe

The NIA response is part of an affidavit which was served on the petitioners about two months ago, advocate Satish B Talekar, representing Gadling and Dhawale, told the bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar Tuesday.

Opposing a plea by Elgar Parishad case accused Surendra Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale who have challenged the transfer of the probe to the NIA, the central agency has told the Bombay High Court that it is an attempt to “thwart” the investigation, and that the “Naxal plague has caused destruction at many levels”.

The NIA response is part of an affidavit which was served on the petitioners about two months ago, advocate Satish B Talekar, representing Gadling and Dhawale, told the bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar Tuesday. He said the Centre and Maharashtra government were yet to file their responses.

Advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for NIA, said he was not aware of the affidavit filed by the agency. “The earlier advocate appearing for NIA must have filed it. I will have to check, and would need a week’s time to put our house in order,” he said.

Gadling and Dhawale are among the accused in the Elgar Parishad case in which an FIR was registered by Pune Police, alleging a criminal conspiracy linked to the banned CPI (Maoist). The case was transferred to the NIA on January 24, 2020.

In its affidavit, filed by NIA Mumbai branch SP Vikram Khalate, the agency said the offences under which the two persons have been booked are scheduled offences, investigation of which can be taken over by central agencies from state investigators at any time.

It said that in view of the gravity of offence and “inter-state link” with implications on “national security”, the Centre suo motu directed the NIA to take up the probe into the case.

Gadling and Dhawale had stated that there were no compelling reasons for the transfer of the case to the NIA after two years of registration of the FIR, and that no provision empowered the Union government to transfer the probe after it had been completed and trial was set to commence. They claimed that the case was transferred “due to malafide and political expediency” when the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in Maharashtra proposed to constitute an SIT to probe the matter.

The petition, which also named former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, claimed that Ekbote and Bhide received “state shelter” despite being named in FIRs linked to the assault on Dalits visiting the Bhima Koregaon memorial on January 1, 2018.

The NIA, in its affidavit, said that the allegations in the petition were “reckless and with the sole purpose of misleading” the court and “to thwart ongoing investigation” being carried out by the central agency. It said that the probes were being conducted “responsibly and most professionally” and that there was enough material against the accused persons, which had been also acknowledged by the Supreme Court.

“The petitioners had gone to the extent of scandalizing and questioning the credibility of the NIA who are fighting for prevention of unlawful and terrorist activities in the country in which the Naxal plague has caused destruction at many levels,” it said.

The agency said the action taken against the accused was “solely based on incriminating material evidence” showing their involvement in the case, that any commission of scheduled offences required investigation by the NIA and, therefore, the transfer of probe was justified.

“There is no personal agenda against any accused persons in this case as is being projected by the petitioners. By trying to cast malafide 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 tradition to file writ petitions, PIL directly or through others, particularly when the investigation is in progress,” the affidavit stated, adding that such process was “nothing but sheer abuse of due process of law”.

The High Court is likely to hear the matter next on July 19.

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