Recently, when National Investigation Agency (NIA) released the name and photograph of a businessman Mahesh Agarwal of Adhunik Group, who runs coal & steel plants in its list of most wanted, was left red-faced.
Usually reserved for global terrorists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, & Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin, their local cadres, & others accused of heinous crimes against the country, so for almost 9 months, the businessman whose companies do business in thousands of crores appeared in the “most wanted” section of the NIA’s website.
Last month after the High Court of Jharkhand, earlier in 2020, asked NIA not to take any coercive action against him and the agency had to take down Agarwal’s name from the section.
In a charge sheet filed on Jan 10 this year for allegedly funding the activities of a Maoist-backed group Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Mahesh Agarwal, Managing Director of Adhunik Power & Natural Resources Limited (APNRL), which runs a coal based transmission power unit in Jharkhand, was arraigned as an accused by NIA.
In 2016, in the case of extortion by Naxal groups from businessmen, transporters & contractors in the coal-rich regions of Bihar & Jharkhand. TPC, a Maoist organisation was receiving money in the names of its leader, according to the charge sheet, a copy of which has been reviewed by the news agency.
In supplementary charge-sheet against Agarwal, the Agency alleged that, on his direction, payment of Rs 200 per metric ton of coal was made to coal transporters against work orders for the purpose of paying to TPC operatives & village committees for smooth functioning of his business.
On January 17, the Special NIA Court, Ranchi issued a non-bailable warrant on the basis of charge-sheet, after which NIA put his name & photograph in the most wanted list on its website.
Appearing for Agarwal, Advocate Nitesh Rana filed an interlocutory application in the Jharkhand High Court said that, “My client has been falsely implicated in the case. He was an NIA witness till last year. In fact, the agency approached Special court in Ranchi in March 2019 for recording his statement under section 164 of Cr.PC as a witness. However, all of sudden, he was arraigned as an accused this year despite the fact that his name was not there in the FIR.”
Advocate Rana also added that, by putting Agarwal name in the most wanted list, the NIA damaged his reputation and also they had challenged the charge-sheet but the agency still include his name in the most wanted list.
In an affidavit filed before the High Court on November 3, Subhod Sharma, NIA officer said that the agency removed Agarwal’s name from the list on October 21. However, the agency defended its charges against Agarwal. NIA officials declined to comment.