Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision allowing National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the probe into the Elgar Parishad case from the state police has invited criticism from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
The NCP supremo on Friday (February 14) expressed his unhappiness on Thackeray’s decision on a day when a Pune court passed an order to transfer the Elgar Parishad case to a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Mumbai. The court also said that the order of investigation by the central agency cannot be said to be illegal or improper.
Talking to reporters in Kolhapur, Sharad Pawar said, “It was not right for the Centre to hand over the investigation into the case to the NIA. But it was even more wrong for the state government to support the transfer of the case” as the law and order was the state subject.
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, which claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists, 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, during the probe.
These nine activists are currently in jail. The NIA had booked 11 people in the case.
The Bombay High Court refused to grant anticipatory bail to civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde in the Elgar Parishad case.
Pawar said that the conduct of the police and the state home department officials handling the case was objectionable, adding that the NIA was entrusted the case at a time when the process of setting up an Special Investigation Team(SIT) was initiated by the state government.
He said, “Meetings took place between 9 am and 11 am (in Mumbai) and the Centre took the decision (to hand over the case to the NIA) at 3 pm (on January 25),” adding it was not right for the Centre to encroach upon the rights of the state on law and order issue.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a key constituent of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government which also includes the Congress. NCP leader Anil Deshmukh is the home minister. The government was formed on November 28, 2019.
On Thursday, Deshmukh said that Uddhav Thackeray had overruled him on the probe in the case.
“State agencies were investigating the case, but the Centre handed over the investigation to the NIA. As Home Minister, my stand was that the Centre should have taken the state government into confidence before taking the decision,” he said, adding “We were putting up our stand in the court in this direction. The chief minister has the right to overrule my stand.”
Initially, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government had criticised the Centre’s move to hand over the case to the NIA. Deshmukh had then publicly expressed disapproval of the Centre’s move and termed it as against the Constitution.
(With Agency Inputs)