Andhra Pradesh

Exclusive : Did Andhra govt stall NIA probe into attack on Jagan?

It has been close to five months since the Centre ordered an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the attack inside Visakhapatnam airport on YS Jaganmohan Reddy on 25 October, 2018. But despite several reminders to the Vizag police, the case documents, case diaries and properties related to the crime have not been handed over to the NIA.   

The photograph clicked before Srinivas attacked Jaganmohan Reddy

On that afternoon in October, Srinivas, a worker at the Vizag airport canteen got a photograph clicked with Jagan and then attacked him with a cockfight knife. This happened when the YSR Congress president was waiting to board a flight to Hyderabad. Jagan sustained a bleeding cut on his left upper arm but he continued his journey after first aid and was later admitted to a hospital in Hyderabad. Srinivas was immediately taken into custody by the CISF and handed over to the Andhra police. 

The attack became a major political controversy with the YSRCP accusing the Naidu government of being negligent with Jagan’s security. It pointed out that Srinivas worked at the canteen whose contract was given to a TDP leader. The Naidu government hit back, accusing Jagan of enacting a drama to gain sympathy in the run-up to the elections and produced a police statement by Srinivas claiming to be an admirer of Jagan.   

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Filter Kaapi is in possession of a letter dated 6 May, 2019 written by S Praveen Kumar, DIG at NIA to Mahesh Chandra Laddha, Commissioner of Visakhapatnam police. In the letter, Kumar points out that despite repeated requests and two orders of the Metropolitan Sessions court in Vijayawada, the Investigating officer of the case, ACP (North) Visakhapatnam, BVS Nageswara Rao had not handed over the material records to the NIA. 

A senior officer of the Andhra Pradesh police confirmed to Filter Kaapi that the state cops had not yet handed over the material related to the case because the matter is sub-judice. “We are awaiting orders of the High court on this,” he said. 

This is rather strange because the High court in January itself had dismissed a plea by the Andhra government that had argued that since the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police had been entrusted with the case, the NIA probe should be cancelled. The NIA then went to the Vijayawada court, alleging non-cooperation by the SIT. 

Since the case involved Jagan Reddy, it was obviously very political and the Andhra government seemed reluctant to let an outside agency investigate. Soon after the Centre asked the NIA to take over the case, Chandrababu Naidu shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting against “bringing down the sanctity and autonomy of every institution”. The then CM claimed that the Home ministry had “entrusted the investigation to the NIA without dealing with the objections furnished by the state government”. 

After quitting the NDA in March 2018, relations between the BJP and the TDP went from bad to worse and in November 2018, Andhra’s Home department withdrew the `general consent’ accorded to the CBI to exercise its authority in the state. After Income Tax raids on some business establishments run by those close to the TDP, Naidu announced that his government would not provide police cover to the I-T officials for conducting the raids. The non-cooperation with the NIA in the Jagan attack case was clearly in the same vein. 

Though the NIA had filed its chargesheet in the case on 23 January, it informed the court that its probe into the conspiracy angle will continue. What is obvious is that the Naidu government prevented a detailed investigation by the NIA into the physical attack on the then Leader of the Opposition. How would the Visakhapatnam police act now with the change of guard in Andhra Pradesh, remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, rather coincidentally, Srinivas was released from Rajahmundry central prison on bail on orders of the NIA court, a day after Jagan came to power. 

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