New Delhi: The Maharashtra government Thursday opposed a batch of petitions in the Supreme Court asking for a transfer of the Palghar lynching case from the state police to a central investigation agency, either the CBI or the NIA.
In an affidavit filed before the top court, the state government said it has transferred the probe to its specialised State Criminal Investigation Department that has already filed two chargesheets in the incident.
The government also said notices have been issued to six policemen who failed to prevent the crime.
Two sadhus — 70-year-old Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri and 35-year-old Sushilgiri Maharaj — along with their driver Nilesh Yelgade were lynched by a mob near Gadchinchle village in Palghar on 16 April. The incident had led to a nationwide political furore.
On perusal of the Maharashtra government’s affidavit, the Supreme Court bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, asked the state to place before it details of action taken against the errant police officers.
“You have issued notice (to the policemen) but what action have you taken against them. Also, file a copy of the chargesheet. We would like to see it. Bring it on record,” Justice Bhushan told the advocate for Maharashtra government.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Maharashtra government must place the chargesheet, howsoever voluminous it was, to enable the court and lawyers assisting it determine whether police personnel were involved in the lynching or it was a dereliction of duty on their part.
The court will now take up the matter after three weeks.
‘Case should be transferred or more sadhus will be massacred’
Advocate Subhash Jha, on behalf of one of the petitioners, alleged that the Maharashtra government was not probing the case seriously. Jha said videos of the incident clearly showed how policemen had handed over the two sadhus to the mob.
“This case must go to the NIA or CBI or else sadhus will continue to be killed in Maharashtra. This was a massacre and it will go on if the case is not transferred,” Jha submitted.
Another petitioner, advocate Shashank Shekhar, pointed out that the Maharashtra government has failed to take action against the police personnel more than three months after the lynching incident.
All the petitioners also asked the Supreme Court to put on hold proceedings in related cases filed before the Bombay High Court but the top court refused to do.
The Maharashtra government counsel informed the apex court that the state police was ready with a third chargesheet in the case, and it will be filed before a trial court within one week. The counsel later promised to tender all three chargesheets before the Supreme Court bench.
‘Probe needs monitoring’
The petitioners also claimed that the Maharashtra Police had filed the first chargesheet in a hurry and alleged that delay in investigation has led to loss of crucial evidence.
“This case needs monitoring as the state is also misleading the Supreme Court,” advocate Ashutosh Lohia, advocate for Juna Akhara — one of the petitioners — submitted.
Another petition stated: “There is strong material to indicate active connivance and role of the local police politicians and religious leaders before and after commission of the offence and therefore unless and until the massacre is investigated by an independent agency such as the NIA, the real cause for the brutal massacre will remain wrapped under the carpet.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.