Will withdraw Koregaon Bhima cases: Uddhav

Prafulla Marpakwar & Swati Deshpande TNN

Mumbai:

CM Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday assured a delegation of NCP leaders comprising cabinet members Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal and legislator Prakash Gajbhiye that criminal cases filed against Dalit activists in connection with the violence at Koregaon Bhima on January 2 and 3, 2018 would be withdrawn as early as possible.

The assurance comes after Thackeray asked the state home department, after taking over as CM on November 28, to immediately withdraw criminal cases filed against activists booked for protesting against the cutting of trees in Aarey Colony and those opposing the Nanar refinery in the Konkan.

“Law-enforcing agencies had initiated criminal proceedings against activists for their alleged involvement in the Koregaon Bhima violence and the Indu Mill agitation. All of them were falsely implicated, so we requested the CM to withdraw the cases immediately, and he acceded to our request,” Gajbhiye said.

The Koregaon Bhima cases are different from the ones related to the Elgar Parishad rally held before the January violence.

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Nine activists held in the Elgar Parishad case — among them Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale and P Varavara Rao — have been accused of having links with the banned CPI (Maoist), which Pune police claim supported and funded Elgar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017. Alleged inflammatory speeches at the Parishad contributed to the January 1, 2018 caste clashes at Koregaon-Bhima, Pune police have claimed. On the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon-Bhima on January 1 last year, a large number of people had gathered at the memorial near Pune. While the crowd was dispersing, violence erupted. A 28-year-old man, Rahul Patangale, was killed.

Police registered 58 cases against 152 people for violence. On February 9, 2018, the state appointed Justice J N Patel, a former judge of Bombay HC, to probe the violence under the Commission of Inquiry Act. The commission was expected to complete the probe within three months. But it has been granted extension till it completes its inquiry.

Legal experts said the government would have to follow legal procedure. “This is an odd proposition to withdraw cases without scrutiny by court of law,” said senior crime law counsel Niteen Pradhan. He said the “government must follow proper legal process, else people could lose faith in the justice system.” Pradhan added, “Once a chargesheet has been filed, the state has no role to play in withdrawal of case. The submission of the public prosecutor assumes importance and he can recommend withdrawal of case, and the judge may then pass the order.” “Prosecutorial discretion is a wellknown facet of criminal law. The government, if it wants to withdraw cases, would make an assessment of nature of case and evidence, gravity and larger public interest at the time of withdrawal,” said senior counsel Amit Desai.

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