The Supreme Court denied the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) plea on Tuesday against the Chhattisgarh Police inquiry into the FIR, claiming a bigger conspiracy in the 2013 Jheeram Ghati Maoist attack, which claimed the lives of 29 people, including state Congress unit officials. This decision dealt a defeat to the NIA.
Apologies, but we would prefer to refrain from interfering. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra made up the bench.
The NIA’s Additional Solicitor General, SV Raju, informed the bench during the hearing that while the federal agency had already looked into the case’s initial FIR, the NIA should look into the incident’s bigger conspiracy perspective.
He claimed that the NIA filed a plea with the trial court, which denied it after the Chhattisgarh Police declined to give the documents to the agency. He stated that although the NIA is looking into the main case, the agency is not allowed to look into a fresh FIR related to the same incident. “Therefore, the High Court also dismissed the petition against the trial court order on March 2, 2022,” he said.
84 of the 109 witnesses have been questioned thus far, according to Mr. Raju, who also stated that a charge sheet had been submitted in the primary case.
Appearing on behalf of the Chhattisgarh government, senior counsel ANS Nadkarni and attorney Sumeer Sodhi fiercely disagreed with the NIA’s statements, claiming that the state had first asked the agency to look into the incident’s bigger conspiracy perspective, but they had declined.
“After seven years of the incident in 2020, a person came forward alleging a larger conspiracy and the state police lodged an FIR based on their complaint,” according to the ASG. He continued by mentioning other rulings from the highest court that mandate that a single entity look at all related instances.
“The state administration then asked the Center to assign the CBI to investigate the bigger plot, because the NIA had declined to do so. The CBI was not given access to the investigation by the Center. What was the state government then able to do? It is requested that the police file a formal complaint and look into the possibility of a wider conspiracy,” Mr. Nadkarni stated.
He told the court that, as evidenced by its charge sheets in the case, the NIA only looked into the event and has not looked into the bigger conspiracy angle since 2013.
“As per section 120B of the IPC, criminal conspiracy is not a scheduled crime. Since it is a stand-alone offense, the police may look into it independently. The Central Investigation Agency requested a trial court transfer the police FIR to it, but the lower court lacked the authority to do so, Mr. Nadkarni said. “NIA can only investigate scheduled offenses.”
“The trial court rightly dismissed their (NIA) petition to transfer the FIR and the order was upheld by the high court,” he stated. The son of a Congress politician who died in the tragedy and whose complaint the state police used to file a conspiracy FIR, Jitendra Mudaliar, was represented by counsel before the bench as well.
“The NIA never investigated how Naxals in such large numbers gathered at one place and how and why the security of slain Congress leaders was reduced on the day of the incident,” he stated.
Initially, the state police’s inquiry into the bigger conspiracy angle was put on hold by the highest court. In the Darbha region of the Bastar district on May 25, 2013, Maoists ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in the Jheeram valley, murdering 29 persons, including former state Congress president Nand Kumar Patel, prominent opposition leader Mahendra Karma, and former Union minister Vidyacharan Shukla.
The highly armed Maoists ambushed and killed Congress officials during their return from a “Parivartan rally” in the Bastar area during the electoral campaign for the assembly elections that year.