The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought reports of COVID-19 tests conducted on Chhatradhar Mahato, a former leader of Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), from the health department in Jhargram district, an official said on Saturday. He said that NIA sleuths have visited the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) in Jhargram twice this week seeking details of the coronavirus tests conducted on Mahato, who was inducted into the state committee of the ruling Trinamool Congress in July.

The probe agency has been seeking custodial interrogation of Mahato in connection with the killing of a local CPI(M) leader in 2009 at Lalgarh, once a hotbed of Maoist activities in Jangalmahal area of the state. His lawyer on September 28 told a special NIA court that he was unable to appear before it as he has tested positive for COVID-19 in Jhargram. Mahato failed to appear before the court on several occasions thereafter, claiming illness.

“Some NIA officers have approached us and sought the reports of the tests conducted on him (Mahato),” the official of the Jhargram CMOH office told PTI. He, however, refused to divulge anything more on this matter.

NIA officials could not be contacted for confirmation. The NIA has charged Mahato under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, apart from waging war against the country.

In August, Mahato was questioned by NIA in connection with the murder case of the CPI(M) leader and the October 2009 hijacking of New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express from Bhubaneswar for five hours at Jhargram station. The 57-year-old man was a prominent leader of the Lalgarh movement spearheaded by the PCAPA.

Mahato was arrested on September 26, 2009, from present-day Jhargram district for an attempt on the life of former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Kantapahari area of Paschim Medinipur district on November 2, 2008. He was set free in February this year following a reduction of his life term to 10 years by Calcutta High Court for his good conduct.

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