Agra/Firozabad: The alleged mastermind behind the hijacking of a bus with 34 passengers on board was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police following an encounter in Firozabad district on Thursday, officials said.

Agra Senior Superintendent of Police Babloo Kumar said the police will invoke the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against Pradeep Gupta alias Gudda for the sensational and audacious act once the case is chargesheeted.

The gunfight broke out around 5 am near a village in Fatehabad area between the accused and police teams, including Agra and Firozabad units, and a special operations group, he said.

“Key accused Pradeep Gupta and his associate Yatendra Yadav were on a motorcycle but seeing the police check, they opened fire and tried to flee. Gupta got injured in retaliatory firing, while Yadav managed to escape through the farmlands,” SSP Kumar told reporters.

He said police teams are on the search for others accused in the case and will arrest them soon.

Around a dozen people were involved in planning and executing the bus hijacking from Agra late on Tuesday night allegedly over a monetary dispute between Gupta and vehicle owner Ashok Arora, a resident of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, according to the officials.

The bus was recovered from a dhaba in Etawah on Wednesday afternoon, after more than 12 hours of going amiss, with officials saying all 34 passengers on board it were safe and on their way to their destinations in other vehicles.

Gupta, a native of Jaipur but a resident of Agra, is the mastermind of the bus hijacking episode. He worked as an agent and middleman at the Road Transport Office in Etawah, according to the officials.

Five police teams were formed later for arresting Gupta and those linked in the case. The teams, including a special operations group (SOG), were scrambled around Agra, Firozabad, Etawah, Mainpuri and nearby areas for the job, the officials said.

Kumar said Gupta has told the police that he worked for bus owner Arora, who passed away two days ago, since 2012 and used to do document works like registration and taxation of vehicles for him.

“He claimed Arora and his transport firm owed him Rs 67 lakh for the works he got done for him, the officer said.

Last week, Gupta had been to Gwalior where he even threatened Arora in a bid to recover his money and then planned this whole episode with the same objective, he said.

The bus was intercepted by accused persons late on Tuesday night. The driver, conductor and the helper were forcibly removed from the bus. The passengers were also alighted later and the bus was parked at a dhaba in Etawah, according to police.

Gupta’s criminal history reveals he was jailed in 2018 for submitting forged documents in the Etawah RTO and cases, including those on corruption charges, were filed against him.

Gupta and his partner Yadav together used vehicles which they had forcibly acquired from similar cases and that angle was being probed further. All such vehicles were being identified by the local police, the SSP said.

“Such a sensational and audacious act created an environment of fear not only in Agra but also in nearby areas. We have got instructions for strict action against all accused in the case. After the charge-sheet is filed, we will proceed with action under the National Security Act (NSA) against them,” Kumar added.

Source : PTI