21 Nov 2023 3:11 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (21.11.2023) refused to entertain an appeal filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging a fresh FIR registered, in 2020, by the Chhattisgarh police to probe the allegations of larger political conspiracy behind a Maoist attack that had killed several senior Congress leaders in Bastar in 2013. The matter was heard by a bench comprising CJI...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (21.11.2023) refused to entertain an appeal filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging a fresh FIR registered, in 2020, by the Chhattisgarh police to probe the allegations of larger political conspiracy behind a Maoist attack that had killed several senior Congress leaders in Bastar in 2013. The matter was heard by a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra.
The NIA's petition had assailed the order of the Chhattisgarh High Court dated 02.03.2022, whereby it had refused to quash the second FIR or transfer the same to NIA for further investigation. The Central investigation agency had initially moved a Special NIA Court in Chhattisgarh with a quashing/transfer plea, which was rejected.
Arguing for NIA today, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju highlighted that the incident was of 2013 in which about 28 people were killed and 33 were injured by Naxalites. He asserted that an FIR was already registered by the local police and since explosives were used in the commission of the offence, it became a scheduled offence and attracted the NIA Act. He apprised the bench that NIA was entrusted with the investigation of the Bastar ambush pursuant to an order passed by Central Government under Section 6 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, in 2013. However, after almost seven years, in 2020, a FIR pertaining to the same incident was lodged by the State police to probe into allegations of larger conspiracy at the instance of a new informant. ASG Raju argued that allegation of the 'larger conspiracy' is a connected offence and hence ought to be investigated by NIA in terms of Section 8 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008. ASG Raju submitted that after the second FIR was lodged in 2020, considering that the allegations pertain to the same predicate offence, NIA had written to the Special Judge asking the local police to stop their investigation and hand-over the documents to NIA by virtue of Section 8 of the NIA Act.
Per contra, the counsel for complainant argued that the second FIR did not pertain to a "connected offence". He asserted that the first FIR pertained solely to the attack on the convoy. However, the second FIR was based on "the deliberate lack of security" and that this aspect was never examined in the first FIR. He added that a three judge bench judgement of the Supreme Court had held that in case of a larger conspiracy, a second FIR could be considered.
Senior Advocate Atmaram Nadkarni, appearing for the State of Chattisgarh argued that NIA was stalling investigation. He said–
"The trial court rejects this application because it is not maintainable. The NIA could not have moved with this application. If Section 6 and 8 is already there, why did they move to trial court for transfer? You did not register an FIR. Because you didn't move, the DG moved UOI for CBI investigation. CBI also doesn't so we register an FIR and we do it."
"They move the trial court because they didn't want to investigate. NIA is unwilling to investigate that's why we say let CBI...This is a larger issue of national interest...you want to stall the investigation from the state and you want the papers in your possession. Conspiracy by itself is a stand alone offence. And this could be a larger Conspiracy. This is one incident."
Eventually, the bench stated that it would not interfere in the matter.
In May 2013, Maoist insurgents attacked a convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh. At least 27 people were killed, including the party’s top state leaders. Congress later alleged that the attack, which happened when the State was being governed by the BJP, was a political conspiracy. The FIR by the State police was registered on the basis of a complaint by he son of a deceased Congress leader.
Case Title: National Investigation Agency New Delhi v The State Of Chhattisgarh And Ors SLP(Crl) No. 7024/2022
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