New Delhi: The interrogation of K T Jaleel is the first time that an incumbent minister has been questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) since its formation in 2009.
Jaleel, Kerala's higher education minister, was questioned by the NIA on Thursday in connection with the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case that was detected at the Trivandrum International airport on July 5, becoming the only person occupying the position of a minister to be questioned by the agency so far since its formation.
Earlier, the NIA had only issued a notice to an incumbent in a government. It had issued a notice to T R Zeliang to question him when he was the chief minister of Nagaland. However, by the time of the interrogation, he had lost his position.
The NIA was formed by the Manmohan Singh government after the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, 2008. Initially, the agency’s investigations focused on terrorist organisations and the foreign aid they received. Later, amendments were made to expand the scope of the agency’s inquiries.
The NIA's investigation in Nagaland was against the state government over allegations that some government departments were providing financial assistance to the militant group, Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang). The investigation into the case began in August 2016. The NIA questioned three officials in the office of the chief minister TR Zeliang. It then arrested three officials from the social welfare and the land resources departments.
The NIA sent notice to chief minister Zeliang in February 2018 asking him to appear before the agency for questioning. By then, Assembly elections had been announced.
Zeliang’s Naga People's Front lost in the elections. Neiphiu Rio of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party became the chief minister, while Zeliang became the leader of the Opposition. The NIA questioned Zeliang when he was the Opposition leader. The NIA then filed a charge sheet against 10 people.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the NIA had registered a case against Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, who had been a member of Omar Abdullah's cabinet in Jammu and Kashmir. Saroori was a state minister twice. The case against him was that he provided financial support to the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen. The NIA only questioned him and did not take any further action.
Home Minister Amit Shah had earlier told Parliament that the NIA had handled 272 cases so far.