The Karnataka government and the inquiry commission set up by it to probe the attacks on churches in nine districts of the state in 2008 are at loggerheads after the panel made public its interim findings.
The commission, headed by former Karnataka High Court judge Justice B.K. Somasekhara, on Friday defended its decision to go public with the nine-page report recommending a ban on “all communal organisations” practising any activity against any religion.
“A strong impression is created that the members belonging to Bajrang Dal, Shri Ram Sene, VHP etc., are mainly responsible in attacking churches in nine districts,” the report said. It slammed the state police and district administrations for having “colluded with the attackers in various districts”.
The commission rejected the state government’s argument that in accordance with law, the report should have been submitted to it in a sealed cover.
“The intention of the commission was only to create a new precedent and no rule was broken by making the synopsis of the report public. The full report was submitted in a sealed cover to the government only,” commission secretary, N. Vidyashankar told HT.
“There is no provision in the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, which restricts the report from being placed in public domain, nor did the terms of reference debar it. In the era of Right to Information Act, it is best to avoid misinterpretations through secrecy,” he said.
The commission’s view found support from the governor, H.R. Bhardwaj. “It is the duty of the state to prevent attacks on religious places. Views may differ on when the report should be made public, but facts remain the same,” he said.
State home minister V.S. Acharya disagreed. “Procedure is that before a final report is submitted to the government, it should not be made public.” The report findings have embarrassed the government, which has been terming the attacks a “conspiracy to defame it”.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa had set up the panel in September 2008 following widespread criticism of the church attacks in the state. The commission is expected to submit its final report by March 31.