‘Maharashtra’s decision more unfair’: Sharad Pawar on NIA taking over Elgar case
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Friday expressed unhappiness over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to hand over Elgar Parishad case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). He said that while the central government’s decision directing NIA to take over Elgar Parishad case was unfair, the state government’s approval to it was more unfair.
This is the first decision of the chief minister that has been criticised by Pawar since the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government - made up of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress - was formed.
The MVA government has agreed to transfer the 2018 Elgar Parishad case to the NIA complying to a January 25 decision of the central government. The Centre had directed the agency to take over the probe against activists and intellectuals linked to Left and Dalit movements, who had given speeches at the Elgar Parishad gathering on December 31, 2017.
“Maintaining law & order is a state subject. It is unfair to encroach upon the rights of the state and Maharashtra’s support to the move is more unfair,” Pawar told reporters in Kolhapur in a press conference.
State home minister Anil Deshmukh, who is from the NCP, on Thursday said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray used his discretionary powers to approve the handover. Deshmukh said that they are still of the opinion that the Centre should have taken the state government into confidence before handing over the probe to the NIA. “We had clarified this in the Pune Sessions court at the last hearing. Our decision, however, has been overruled by the chief minister using his discretionary powers,” he said.
Incidentally, as soon as the MVA government was formed, Pawar wrote a letter to the chief minister demanding a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) in the case. The NCP chief had said the erstwhile BJP-led government “abused” its power to book activists and called the arrests of activists a conspiracy. But Thackeray waited for the NCP to take up the home department and take the decision.
In the wake of Pawar’s letter, home minister and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar held a meeting with home department officials to review the case. The home department was considering to appoint a SIT to probe the entire episode. However, before it could do so, the Centre took over the case. The NIA has the power to take over investigations, which it feels has a bearing on national security.
Violence had broken out near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial in Pune on January 1, 2018, leaving one dead and several others injured. Dalits visit the memorial in large numbers as it commemorates the victory of British forces, which included Dalit Mahar soldiers, over the army of the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of Pune in 1818.
The Pune Police had filed cases against activists and intellectuals, who had delivered speeches at Elgar Parishad, for inciting violence and were picked up in raids across the country. The police had claimed the organisers of the event had Maoist links. The NIA has the power to take over investigations, which it feels has a bearing on national security.