A Mumbai court that is hearing the 2019 Gadchiroli attack case has allowed the National Investigation Agency to file additional evidence that it collected in the Elgar Parishad case, The Indian Express reported.
On May 1, 2019, fifteen police personnel and a driver were killed in an improvised explosive device blast in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The National Investigation Agency had alleged that members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) conspired to carry out the attack.
The Elgar Parishad event that is the subject of the agency’s investigation took place in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day before violent clashes broke out between Maratha and Dalit groups near the village of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra. Sixteen persons were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
On February 10, a report in the Washington Post had claimed that Wilson had been targeted by two separate groups of hackers before he was arrested. One of the groups that carried out the hacking had allegedly planted documents on Wilson’s device.
In February 2021, a United States-based digital forensics company, Arsenal Consulting, had also stated that an attacker used malware to infiltrate Wilson’s laptop and deposited at least ten incriminating letters on it.
The National Investigation Agency, in an application before Special Judge Rajesh Kataria, said that some evidence needed to be brought on record in the Gadchiroli attack case. The court allowed the agency to produce the statements of two witnesses and a photo identification panchnama, according to The Times of India.
The National Investigation Agency cited the statement of a witness who claimed that Rona Wilson, one of the persons accused in the Elgar Parishad case, had met Bhupti, an accused person in the Gadchiroli case who is now absconding, the Hindustan Times reported.
Wilson’s lawyer R Sathyanarayan told the newspaper that even if the witness’ statement was taken at face value, the liability of the crime could not rest on his client.
The National Investigation Agency’s witness also reportedly told the agency that two other accused persons in the Elgar Parishad case – Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe – had met Milind Teltumbde, the brother of academician Anand Teltumbde.
Milind Teltumbde was among 26 alleged Maoists killed in a gunfight with security forces in November 2021. Anand Teltumbde is among the accused persons in the Elgar Parishad case.
Senior counsel Mihir Desai, who represents Gaichor and Gorkhe, told the Hindustan Times, that his clients never took part in any violent activities such as carrying out blasts.
Meanwhile, the agency told the court that some statements recorded in the Elgar Parishad case refer to Sathyanarayana Rani, a man accused of involvement in the Gadchiroli blasts.
The Bombay High Court had granted bail to Rani in August. His wife Narmada was also among those arrested, but she died in a hospice earlier this year, according to The Times of India.
According to the National Investigation Agency, a witness who worked for the banned outfit had mentioned the couple, and said that Rani worked with the CPI (Maoist)‘s publication department. The witness’ statement also reportedly contained a reference to activist Umar Khalid, who is in jail in connection with the 2020 Delhi riots.
“I heard about Umar Khalid...that he is Urban Party member and working with other members such as Aniruddh Bhattacharya and Shailaja in Delhi for the CPI (Maoist) movement. I have never met others personally,” the witness said, according to The Times of India.
Shifa Khan, the lawyer representing Rani, opposed the National Investigation Agency’s application and said that her objection was not to the documents themselves, but the manner in which the agency sought to bring them on record.
Khan said that the evidence did not form part of the chargesheet, and could not be allowed to be brought on record through a belated application.