NIA was satisfied with the progress made by the Pune Police before it got the carge recently

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New Delhi : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) pushed to take over the Bhima Koregaon violence probe last year, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in Maharashtra, but was satisfied with the progress made by the Pune Police. This was said a day after the sudden transfer of the sensitive cases to the federal body sparked a political controversy.

The cases pertain to caste clashes that broke out in the village of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra’s Pune district on January 1, 2018 during the bicentennial celebrations of a British-era war by Dalits.

The police investigation blames a Maoist plot to destablise the state government and assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders, and nine prominent activists have been arrested.

Given the sensitivity of the case, in April 2019, NIA sent a proposal to the Centre to investigate the cases. The proposal was forwarded to the state government, which asked Pune Police to discuss the matter with the agency, said one of the officers quoted above.

That month, a team led by a joint commissioner-rank officer of Maharashtra Police reached NIA headquarters in Delhi and gave a detailed presentation to the agency sleuths, informing them about role of each activist, Maoists, nature of evidence both documentary and forensic, and details of charge sheets filed by then, the official said.

“After hours of discussion, the NIA top brass was satisfied and even congratulated the police for collecting evidence which will stand the scrutiny in the court of law and secure the conviction,” the second officer added. After this meeting, NIA did not push for taking over the probe. The Centre allowed Pune Police to continue with it.

But on Friday, the Union home ministry transferred the probe to the federal agency using its powers under section 6 (5) of the NIA Act, which allows the anti-terror body to take over probe in a scheduled offence “suo motu”.

Unlike 2019, the state government – which is now ruled by a three-party Opposition alliance led by the Shiv Sena – was not kept in the loop. Under the NIA Act, the Centre doesn’t need to inform the state government to transfer cases to the agency, but legal experts differ over the stage and manner in which cases are transferred.

The NIA or the Union home ministry did not comment on the issue.

After the January 2018 violence, the then BJP-led government had backed the Pune Police probe that expanded to several cities, and a number of top leaders had commended the police for ferreting out “urban naxals” -- a reference to alleged overground Leftist extremists.

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