Elgar Parishad case probe transfer to NIA has no link to change in government: Centre to Bombay HC

MUMBAI: The Union government told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to unearth a larger pan-India conspiracy and had nothing to do with the change in government in Maharashtra.

The Union government recently submitted its affidavit in the HC in response to a petition filed by human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling and activist Sudhir Dhawale, both arrested in the case, challenging the January, 2020 decision to transfer the probe in the case from Pune police to the NIA.

The petition, filed through advocate S B Talekar last year, alleged the case was transferred by the Centre after the BJP lost power in Maharashtra and, hence, the decision was politically motivated.

“It is stoutly denied that the transfer of the investigation was actuated by the change in government. Change in government has nothing to do with the transfer of investigation to NIA,” an affidavit filed by the the Under Secretary of the Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalisation division of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said.

It further said the petition was “malafide and vexatious” and was an attempt by the accused to thwart investigation in the case.

“It was revealed that senior leaders of CPI (Maoist), which is a prescribed terrorist organization, were in contact with organizers of the Elgar Parishad to spread the ideology of Maoism/Naxalism and encourage unlawful activities,” the affidavit said, adding that the offence became “abnormally grave and spread not only to Pune district but to many regions of India” and, hence, a thorough investigation was necessary to unearth the large pan-India conspiracy hatched by the accused.

The petition came up for hearing before a division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar on Tuesday which adjourned it to August 27.

The NIA, in its affidavit filed earlier, had also opposed the petition and said the case was transferred to the central agency as it had implications on national security.

Apart from Gadling and Dhawale, activists Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen and Stan Swamy were arrested in the case.

Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, however, died in a Mumbai hospital last month in the middle of his fight for bail on health grounds.

The activists, arrested for allegedly being active members of the CPI (Maoist) and propagating Maoist ideology and inciting violence, have been charged under provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as well as Indian Penal Code.

The Elgar Parishad case is related to inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

The police has claimed the conclave was organised by people with Maoist links.