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NIA taking over probe: State govt receives Centre’s communication, starts legal consultation but officials say govt unlikely to oppose the Centre

PUBLISHED ON JAN 29, 2020 12:54 AM IST

Three days after the Centre handed over the probe into the Elgar Parishad case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the state government on Tuesday began legal consultations, as the Centre did not consult it before making the decision. Officials from the home department, however, said the state was unlikely to challenge the decision.

Home minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday evening said his department has received the Union home ministry’s letter, dated January 25, intimating that the Centre is taking over the probe and it has been sent to the law and judiciary department. “The Director General of Police (DGP) has received the letter from the Central government. It has been forwarded to us. We are seeking legal opinion before deciding on the course of action,” Deshmukh told HT. The government has also sought the opinion of the state’s advocate general, Ashutosh Kumbhakoni.

DGP Subodh Jaiswal briefed CM Uddhav Thackeray and state intelligence chief Rashmi Shukla about the Centre’s letter around noon at Mantralaya. The CM was reportedly told by the officers that the state police will have to co-operate with the central agency.

Rights activists and workers from the Dalit movement were booked for making provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad organised at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017. The police said the Parishad allegedly escalated tensions leading to the riots in Bhima-Koregaon a day after the event. The activists were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). After the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government came to power, the three-party government had started to review the Elgar Parishad probe carried out by the Pune Police. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh had held a review meeting with the top officials of the home department and Pune Police last week. The state was even considering setting up a special investigation team (SIT) to review the case. Deshmukh had said that the decision on SIT would be taken after the investigating officers submit more details that have been sought. The Centre, however, shifted the case to the NIA on Friday. The Pune Police on Monday refused to grant NIA officials access to case papers, saying they had no instructions from the state DGP.

The DGP has now reportedly sought directives from the government over giving the NIA team access to the documents related to the investigation.

Although the state has expressed its discontent over not being consulted by the Centre, experts say it can’t do much.

Section 6 of the NIA Act empowers the Central government to transfer the investigation of any case to the NIA without taking the state government into confidence. According to an official from the home department, although the government is seeking legal opinion, it doesn’t have any option, but to cooperate with the NIA. “The NIA is governed by its own law which permits the Centre to take over any case without consulting the state government. Although consulting the state government is a tradition, it is not mandatory for the Centre,” said Shrihari Aney, former advocate general of Maharashtra.

While a section of the leaders in the government feels the state government should simultaneously continue its probe, home department officials say any probe cannot be conducted by two separate agencies.

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