Chhattisgarh court refuses to hand over Jheeram attack conspiracy case to NIA

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Jagdalpur has declined to hand over the FIR lodged by a Congress leader in Bastar seeking a probe in the alleged conspiracy behind the Jheeram Valley attack to the NIA, for which the agency had moved an application in June.

The court ruled that the case will be investigated by the state police. However, NIA’s counsel said that the agency will move the state high court challenging the order of Jagdalpur sessions court.

Twenty-seven people, including senior Congress leaders Nand Kumar Patel, Mahendra Karma, Dinesh Patel and VC Shukla were killed allegedly in an attack by a group of 150 Maoists in 2013. On May 26, 2013, the NIA registered a case on this attack and started investigations.

Recently, on May 25, 2020, Jitendra Mudaliyar, son of Congress leader Uday Mudaliyar, who was also killed in Darbha Valley attack (also referred to as the Jheeram Valley attack), registered an FIR in Bastar district with regard to the attack on the Congress convoy. The NIA moved an application on June 16 in Jagdalpur NIA court seeking handing over of the case registered by Mudaliyar to NIA for further investigation.

“Bastar police presented its view point before the NIA court mentioning that this case is different from the 2013 case, because the new case would mainly investigate the conspiracy angle of the incident. On 10th of August 2020, Jagdalpur NIA court rejected agency’s application for transferring the Jheeram case (FIR registered in May 2020) to NIA for further investigation,” Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, Sunderaj P told HT.

On the other hand, NIA’s counsel said the agency will challenge the order in the state high court.

“We have argued that as per the NIA Act and also the CrPC, there cannot be two FIRs for a single offence and it falls within NIA’s jurisdiction because the agency is already investigating the matter pertaining to the same offence,” said Kishore Bhaduri, NIA’s counsel talking to HT.

Bhaduri also alleged that the NIA court had incorrectly relied solely on section 10 of the NIA act.

“The order was made relying on section 10 of NIA act to decline handing over of the file of FIR to NIA. The sessions court has omitted to consider the implications of section 6 and partially read the provision under section 10 of the NIA act, which is always subject to section 6. We will move to high court,” said Bhaduri.

State unit of the Congress party has welcomed the court order.

“We welcome the order of Jagdalpur court and secondly we want to know why the conspiracy angle should not be investigated? Why NIA doesn’t want the state police to investigate, which will unfold the conspiracy behind the Darbha Valley killing,” said Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi.

The BJP, too, said it welcomes the decision of the court and added that the Congress leadership should now come forward to submit the evidence to back up their claims of conspiracy behind the attack.

“We also welcome the decision of the court. The Congress leaders always claim that they have evidence about the conspiracy and now they can come forward and submit the evidence to Chhattisgarh police. The matter should be resolved,” said BJP spokesperson Sachidanand Upasane

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