New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) that took over the probe in the 2018 Bhima-Koregaon violence case will first aim to arrest the accused who have been named in two FIRs but not yet been held, a source in the agency told ThePrint.
In one FIR, filed by Pune resident Tushar Damgude on 7 January 2018, six accused are named — poet Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Potdar, both members of Republican Panthers (RP), Sagar Gorkhe, Deepak Dhengle, Ramesh Gaichor and his wife Jyoti Jagtap, all artists of Kabir Kala Manch in Pune, for inciting violence.
However, only two — Dhawale and Potdar — have been arrested.
The second FIR names Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote — Brahmin Hindutva leaders who were accused of stirring up anti-Dalit sentiments in the region in the last two weeks of December 2017.
While Ekbote was arrested briefly in 2018 and released on bail, Bhide hasn’t been arrested at all.
The Mumbai branch of the NIA has been directed to take up the investigation in the case, a source in the agency said.
“We will now take over the probe to arrest the accused who have been named in the FIRs but not yet arrested. They are either absconding or just not arrested,” an NIA officer said.
“Firstly, a detailed inquiry into their involvement will be carried out as there are more than 100 people who are said to be involved in the case, following which more arrests will be made.”
Maharashtra leaders last week had hit out at the central government for “arbitrarily” handing over the case to the NIA without the state administration’s consent.
Usually, for the NIA to take over a case from a state, a formal communication is sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs by the state concerned, requesting for a transfer of the case to the agency. Following this, a notification is issued and the investigation formally transferred. The state police then formally hands over all files related to the case to the NIA.
But in this case, Section 6(5) of the NIA Act was invoked that permits the central government to direct the agency (NIA), suo motu, to investigate any offence if it feels that a crime is a scheduled offence fit to be probed by the NIA. The NIA, thus, can take over a probe from the local police, after any number of days.
Move may stall probe
The probe into the Bhima-Koregaon case is likely to face a delay as the Pune police is unwilling to share its files with the NIA.
Under the NIA Act, however, the local police will have to transfer all case files and evidence to the NIA.
According to the NIA Act, when an order under Section 6(4) or 6(5) is passed, Section 6(6) bars the state government and its police officers from proceeding with the investigation and directs them to send the relevant documents and records to the agency.
So, in this case, despite the reluctance of the state police, they will have to do it under law, else it will be considered a violation.
“The state can choose to cooperate or make it difficult but, according to the law, they will have to transfer all the case files, evidence to the NIA,” the NIA officer said.
According to officer, the Mumbai Branch will soon set up a team to look into the case.
“The order has been formally given to us only now. We will formally take over the case, go through all evidence and files and then head with making arrests,” the officer said.