SC dismisses NIA's plea against larger conspiracy probe by Chhattisgarh Police in 2013 Jheeram Ghati Naxal attack

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New Delhi, Nov 21 (PTI) In a setback to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed its plea against the Chhattisgarh Police probe in the FIR alleging larger conspiracy in the 2013 Jheeram Ghati Naxal attack that killed 29 people, including leaders of the state Congress unit.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said, "Sorry, we would not like to interfere. Dismissed." During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the NIA, told the bench that the larger conspiracy angle into the incident should be investigated by the NIA as the main FIR of the case has been investigated by the central agency.

He said when the Chhattisgarh Police refused to hand over the records to the NIA, the agency moved the trial court, which rejected the plea.

"Thereafter, the high court also dismissed the plea against the trial court order on March 2, 2022," he said, adding that when the main case is being investigated by the NIA, a separate FIR related to the same incident cannot be investigated by another agency.

Raju said that a charge sheet has been filed in the main case and out of the 109 witnesses, 84 witnesses have been examined till now.

"After seven years of the incident in 2020, a person comes forward alleging a larger conspiracy and the state police lodge an FIR based on his complaint," the ASG said.

He added there are several judgements of the top court which say all connected cases are to be investigated by one agency.

Senior advocate ANS Nadkarni and advocate Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, vehemently opposed the submissions of the NIA and said the state had initially requested the agency to investigate the larger conspiracy angle of the incident but they refused.

"The state government then requested the Centre to entrust the probe of a larger conspiracy to the CBI as NIA had refused to probe. The Centre refused to hand over the probe to the CBI. Then what could the state government do? It asked the police to register the FIR and investigate the larger conspiracy angle," Nadkarni said.

He informed the court that the NIA never investigated the larger conspiracy angle since 2013 and only investigated the incident, which is evident from its charge sheets in the case.

"Criminal conspiracy under section 120B of the IPC is not a scheduled offence. It is a standalone offence and can be investigated by the police separately. NIA can only investigate scheduled offences," Nadkarni submitted, adding that the Central investigating agency moved the trial court for transfer of FIR from police to it but the lower court does not have the power to do so.

"The trial court rightly dismissed their (NIA) plea to transfer the FIR and the order was upheld by the high court," he said.

The bench also heard the counsel for the complainant Jitendra Mudaliar, son of the Congress leader who lost his life in the incident and on whose complaint the state police lodged the FIR related to conspiracy.

"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 said.

The top court had initially granted a stay on further investigation of into the larger conspiracy angle by the state police.

On May 25, 2013, Naxals attacked a convoy of Congress leaders in Jheeram valley in Darbha area of Bastar district, killing 29 people, including then state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, former leader of opposition Mahendra Karma and former Union minister Vidyacharan Shukla.

The deadly ambush by heavily armed Naxals had taken place when the political campaigning for the then assembly elections was on and Congress leaders were returning after taking part in a 'Parivartan rally' at Bastar district. PTI MNL MNL RT RT