In yet another confrontation with the Centre, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has objected to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs issuing orders to National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the knife attack on Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy on October 25. Naidu stated that the incident in which Jagan suffered a cut on his left upper arm requiring stitches cannot be perceived as an offence attracting investigation by the NIA. Quoting a judgement of the Bombay High Court in Pragya Singh Chandrapaul Singh versus NIA, Naidu said that the offence has to be grave enough for the NIA to step in.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Naidu said he was concerned about the manner in which Ministry of Home Affairs issued the orders. “It is with regret and anguish I am to say the Union Government is bringing down the sanctity and autonomy of every institution with particular reference to the manner in which the Ministry of Home Affairs has entrusted the investigation of airport incident to NIA without dealing with or reasoning out the objections furnished by the state government in this regard having called for the same,’’ Naidu wrote.
Naidu said that the orders violated the provisions of the NIA Act, 2000 as it was set up to take up specific cases which are found to have complex inter-state and international link and possible connections with smuggling drugs and arms, circulation of fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders. Naidu reminded Modi of his statement in January 2009 when he was CM of Gujarat when he alleged that by setting up the NIA, the then UPA Government wanted to take upon the responsibility of fighting terror by sidetracking the states.
“The Union Government now in utter disregard of prevailing conventions and traversing arenas within the exclusive domain of the state. Law and order is the fundamental responsibility and police function is primary objective of any state. The federal set up calls for a policy of non-interference in subjects which are the exclusive domain of states,’’ the letter states. Naidu stated that the incident involving Jagan cannot be perceived as a scheduled offence attracting investigation by the NIA. `The issue has been dealt with by the Union Government in blatant violation of the law. There are several instances of political interference by the BJP Government to bail out its blue-eyed activists involved in serious offences investigated by the NIA by exerting pressure on the public prosecutors of the NIA so as to dilute the severity of the offences to enable their acquittal,’’ Naidu alleged.
The CM pointed out that in May 2014 when a woman software engineer was killed in a blast at Chennai Central Railway Station, and the Central Government proposed investigation by NIA, the Tamil Nadu Government objected to it and the Centre had to back off. “Strangely, the trivial rather insignificant issue at the Visakhapatnam Airport is now being projected as a flagship case to be investigated by the NIA. It is equally disturbing to look at the haste with which the NIA filed the FIR in less than 24 hours pursuant to the directions of the Centre for a case of negligible injury when compared to the delay and indifference exhibited by the Centre in dealing with the issues of assassination of two MLAs one sitting and one former at Visakhapatnam by extremists in September 2018,’’ Naidu said, requesting the PM to recall the order asking NIA to investigate.
Jagan received a bleeding cut on the left upper arm when J Srinivas Rao, a restaurant worker at Visakhapatnam airport slashed him with a small knife used in bird fights. Jagan received a few stitches but was otherwise unharmed. The AP Police had formed an SIT to investigate the case. While Srinivas Rao claimed that he did to garner sympathy for Jagan, the YSRCP has maintained that there was a bigger conspiracy to attack Jagan, and its leaders petioned the High Court demanding an investigation by a central agency.
The High Court issued notices to the Centre and AP Government to act according to Section 6 of NIA Act. On December 31, the Centre informed that High Court that it was transferring the case to NIA. With orders from Union Home Ministry, the Hyderabad Unit of NIA filed an FIR in its police station, and M Sajid Khan was appointed as the investigation officer. On January 4, the court officially handed over the investigation to NIA.