Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu suffered a jolt as the newly formed AP High Court, on Friday, handed over the case of knife attack on Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, president of YSR Congress, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). This development is expected to spell political trouble for the Chief Minister ahead of elections to the AP Assembly and Lok Sabha this summer.

Ever since Jagan was attacked by a miscreant, Janipally Srinivasa Rao, 25, at Visakhapatnam airport on 25 October, YSR Congress has been alleging that the state police had diluted the case and demanded that only a probe by a Central investigating agency can expose the real “conspiracy to kill Jagan”.

The HC decision to hand over this case to the NIA is also a snub to the TDP government as it has withdrawn its general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation to take up cases within AP limits. Now that the HC had ordered the case to be investigated by the NIA, YSR Congress leaders have interpreted it as a moral victory against the TDP government.

The HC verdict, based on a petition filed by the YSR Congress, is all the more embarrassing to the ruling TDP as only two days ago, on Wednesday, Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner, Mahesh Chandra Ladda announced that the accused had attacked Jagan only for the sake of “publicity”.

After the HC verdict, AP government’s prosecutors have announced that they will go for an appeal before the Supreme Court, while Jagan’s counsels have declared that they will seek penal action against the AP Director General of Police and SIT under IPC Section 166 for trying to “mislead” and “obstruct” the case investigation.

AP had formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by an ACP, Nageswara Rao and they had almost finalised interrogating Srinivasa Rao, along with 92 other witnesses, in the case. As per Ladda and SIT head Nageswara Rao, the accused Srinivasa Rao was a fan of Jagan and wanted to become popular through this attack.

Srinivasa Rao, a school dropout, joined Fusion Foods Restaurant at the airport as a worker only a few months ago and planned the attack on Jagan a few weeks prior. He had purchased two small knives mostly used in cockfights and ensured that Jagan was not harmed in the attack. “He purposefully stabbed Jagan on his shoulder, with a 0.5 cm deep scar,” Ladda said.

According to Visakhapatnam police, accused Srinivasa Rao always wanted Jagan to become the CM and had shared his plans to attack him with some of his close friends for the past few months. The police booked a case under IPC Section 307 and came to a conclusion that there was no political conspiracy as had been alleged by YSR Congress leaders.

Ladda said that the police would file a charge-sheet before a trial court before the due date, by 25 January, once getting permission from the HC, which was hearing a petition filed by the YSR Congress seeking an investigation by a central agency. Jagan’s party told the HC that they had no faith in the AP police and cannot trust their investigation too.

The HC had issued notices to both the Centre and state governments asking for their stand on the petition. While the AP government had stated that there was no need for any other probe, including that of CBI as the local police had almost finished their preliminary investigations, the Centre had informed the HC that there was no objection from their side to a probe by the Central agency.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had directed its NIA office in Hyderabad to register a case on the attack and the agency had filed it on 1 January. As per the statement filed by the MHA before the HC, as the offence took place at the airport which comes under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, the NIA was the right agency to probe the matter.

On Friday, when the case came for hearing before the HC, Jagan’s counsel, Ponnavolu Sudhakara Reddy argued that as the attack was a scheduled offence as per Section 3(a) of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation’s airport security laws, it ought to be investigated by a Central agency. The HC division bench, comprising Justice S.V. Bhat and Justice K.V. Lakshmi, has considered the view and handed over the case to the NIA.

Right from the beginning, the YSR Congress has maintained that the accused, Srinivasa Rao, was hired and trained by TDP leaders to attack Jagan in a well-planned conspiracy. After the HC order to transfer the case to NIA came, YSR Congress MP, Mithun Reddy said that Srinivasa Rao’s employer at the airport restaurant, Harsha Vardhan, was a TDP leader and the attack took place under his direction.

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