Elgar Parishad Case: Pune Court Transfers Hearings to NIA Court After Maharashtra Govt U-Turn


Pune: A sessions court here on Friday allowed the transfer of the politically sensitive Bhima Koregaon case to an NIA court in Mumbai after an 11th hour U-turn by the Maharashtra government which said it has no objection to the federal agency taking over the probe.

The court, however, said that it did not have the power to continue with the case even if the government had not given filed a No Objection Certificate (NOC). The court also directed all accused to be present before the NIA court in Mumbai on February 28.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day.

The Pune police have claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.

During the probe, the police arrested Left-leaning activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links.

These nine activists, currently in jail, are among 11 people booked by the NIA in the Elgar Parishad case.

The Centre had last month transferred the probe in the case from the Pune Police to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a move then criticised by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government.

While the Pune police had applied IPC section 124A (sedition) in the case, the FIR registered by the NIA does not have this charge. Similarly, IPC sections like 121 (waging or attempting to war or abetting waging war against the Government of India), 121A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable under section 121) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) are missing from the NIA's FIR.

The accused have been charged under IPC sections 153 A (promoting enmity between groups), 505 (1)(b) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public), 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons) among others and certain sections of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The NIA last week filed an application before a sessions court in Pune, seeking transfer of case papers, seized data, court records and proceedings to the special NIA court in Mumbai.

However, the prosecution had then opposed the NIA's application, saying the reasons given by the central agency in its plea were not legal and sufficient to transfer the case to the special NIA court.

In a change of stand, the Maharashtra government has now said it has no objection to the NIA taking over the probe. Additional chief secretary (Home) had on Thursday said that the home department did not have any objection to the transfer. Home minister Anil Deshmukh said his stand was against the NIA taking over the case but chief minister Uddhav Thackeray overruled his stand using his discretionary powers.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar also expressed disappointment over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray giving a go-ahead to the transfer. “While central government’s decision to direct NIA to take over the case is wrong and malafide, the state government approving it was more unfair.”

NCP leader Nawab Malik also admitted that although the Mahas Vikas Aghadi was united over the issue of the transfer of case, there seems to be difference in opinion now between parties. “Even if NIA takes over the case, we will see if there can be a parallel probe at our end. We will discuss with the chief minister about the next course of action.”