Tug of war between Centre and Chhattisgarh; NIA says state can’t probe 2013 Jheerum Ghati attack, approaches court
An all-out war has erupted between the Centre and Chhattisgarh government over a fresh case registered by the state police last month in connection with the Jheerum Ghati ambush seven years ago.
Twenty-seven people, including senior Congress leaders Nand Kumar Patel, Mahendra Karma, Dinesh Patel and VC Shukla, were killed by a group of 150 Maoists in that attack in 2013.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) wrote to Chhattisgarh police last week asking them not to proceed with the investigation in the first information report (FIR) registered by Bastar Police on May 26, saying it is already investigating the case.
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) too has opined that since both the FIRs (registered on May 25, 2013, and May 26, 2020) relate to the same incident, NIA has the powers to take over the fresh FIR too.
The federal anti-terror probe agency even approached a special court in Jadgalpur on June 16, saying Chhattisgarh police would be violating Section 6 of the NIA act, which specifically prohibits the state government to proceed with the investigation once the case is entrusted to it.
In his letter to Bastar’s superintendent of police on June 10, NIA’s chief investigating officer in the Jheerum Ghati attack case, Amit Singh, has asked to transfer all May 26, 2020, FIR related documents and not to proceed further with the investigation as “it may lead to vexatious and avoidable litigation due to conflict of jurisdiction”.
Singh said that a charge sheet has already been filed against nine accused in September 2015 in the case while searches are being carried out for arresting 25 more accused and the trial too is at an advanced stage.
HT has reviewed NIA’s letter to Bastar’s SP, its petition in the court and MHA’s opinion.
NIA informed the special court last week that “the contents of FIR (registered by Bastar Police on May 26, 2020) fall in the definition of a terrorist act as well as in the ambit of scheduled offence prescribed in the NIA Act, 2008” while urging it to give directions to state police not to pursue it.
On the other hand, the Chhattisgarh government is in no mood to hand over the probe to the central agency. The state government has, over past couple of years, repeatedly questioned NIA’s credibility saying it didn’t probe the conspiracy angle.
Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has said on numerous occasions that the Centre is not allowing a thorough probe by the state government by refusing to transfer the NIA case to it.
In fact, the Baghel government moved the Supreme Court in January this year challenging the constitutionality of the NIA act saying it takes away the powers of states to investigate crimes as enshrined in the constitution.
Chairman of Chhattisgarh Congress communications department – Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said – “We have been saying from day one that it was a political criminal conspiracy, which NIA has failed to unearth. We will do everything to find out what exactly happened in that in 2013 incident in which our beloved Congress leaders were brutally murdered by Naxals. Why is Centre not investigating the larger conspiracy angle?”.
Trivedi said they will contest NIA’s claim in the court and before the public.
NIA is currently empowered to take over any case in states without their consent. Chhattisgarh is the first state ever to challenge the entire NIA act.
The NIA didn’t respond to phone calls or SMS query.
“We are taking legal opinion on NIA’s plea after which a decision will be taken,” Sundarraj P, Bastar’s inspector general of police, said while speaking to HT.