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Takeover of the Elgaar Case by the NIA

Transfer of the Elgaar case to the NIA seeks to undermine the Maharashtra government’s administrative capacity.

 

On 24 January, the union home ministry decided to transfer the investigation in the Elgaar Parishad case from the Maharashtra police to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). This has, once again, highlighted how the NIA threatens the federal principle by encroaching upon the domain of the states. Such an encroachment is being seen as an attempt by the centre to invite confrontation with the states and create instability within those that are not ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It should be noted that the decision to transfer this case was made immediately after the deputy chief minister and home minister of Maharashtra conducted a preliminary review meeting with police officers investigating the case. As stated by the state’s home minister, there was no consultation or communication with the state government before the decision to transfer the case was taken. Why would the centre be so alarmed at the seemingly anodyne occurrence of ministers in a state government reviewing a case under its own jurisdiction? It could be due to the fact that the ruling alliance in the state and its leadership had started raising questions over the conduct and actions of the preceding government and its police in the Elgaar Parishad as well as the Bhima Koregaon cases.

Last month, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar had raised concerns over the continued incarceration of nine activists/lawyers arrested by the Pune city police in the Elgaar Parishad case and demanded an investigation by a special investigation team (SIT) as he considered the investigation and actions of the erstwhile government to be doubtful and motivated. Pawar had reportedly written a letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra regarding the same. The review meeting held by the two ministers should be seen in this context, and the prospect of the constitution of such an SIT could possibly have sent jitters down the BJP camp’s spine, prompting it to thwart such a possibility by taking the matter away from the state government. What explains this jitteriness and the overenthusiastic support (which perhaps masks a sense of relief) by the former chief minister for the transfer of this case? One wonders why he would not see the transfer as an indictment if he were so confident about the validity of the investigation carried under his aegis—since he also held the home portfolio then.

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Updated On : 11th Mar, 2020

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