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Special panel to re-probe Mumbai riots cases

Maharashtra is examining a proposal to set up a panel to re-investigate cases against those indicted in the report for the 1992-93 riots.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2007 20:39 IST

The Maharashtra government is examining a proposal to set up a special panel to re-investigate cases against politicians and police officials indicted in the Srikrishna Commission report for the riots in 1992-93 which claimed around 900 lives, mainly of Muslims, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.

A week after the ending of the epic trial in the 1993 serial bombings which saw nearly a 100 people convicted, the victims of the communal riots that had triggered the attacks are demanding justice.

The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coalition government in Maharashtra has come under tremendous pressure for not having implemented the recommendations of the Sri Krishna Commission.

In a move to stem the snowballing outrage over non-implementation of the report, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said he was considering setting up of a high-level panel to re-probe cases against police officials and politicians indicted by the commission for their role in the riots.

Deshmukh said his government, which has already submitted a compressive report on the action taken against erring officials and politicians to the Supreme Court, is examining the proposal to set a special high-level panel.

The move comes after a delegation led by filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and former state minister Arif Nasi Khan met Deshmukh and suggested setting up of such a panel.

"We are examining the proposal. In fact I have already asked the police commissioner to probe the cases submitted by the delegation afresh and submit a report of the lapses if any," Deshmukh has said.

Last week, members from Action Committee for the Implementation of the 700-page Srikrishna Commission Report submitted a petition to the apex court demanding implementation of the report.

The petitioners said that though the state government had filed a detailed report on the steps taken on the basis of the report, it had failed to take any appropriate action under the law to bring to book those indicted by the commission.

The apex court, in response to various petitions demanding implementation of the commission report, directed them to file a joint petition within six weeks mentioning the failures, if any, on the part of the Maharashtra government.

The case will heard in the last week of September.

Justice B.N. Srikrishna, who was appointed to probe the riots, spent five years collecting evidence for the commission of enquiry. His 700-page report makes chilling reading.

He indicted 31 policemen and a political leadership that failed to arrest the violence and several top Hindu leaders, including radical Shiv Sena party chief Bal Thackeray.

The report says: "Thackeray acted like a veteran general commanding his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims."

The commission also accused then Mumbai police joint chief R.D. Tyagi of shooting nine Muslim boys during the riots.

Tyagi was tried and acquitted in 2003.

But none of the other policemen named in the commission report has yet been convicted.

Since the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court's sentencing in the 1993 serial bombings, many Muslim organisations and voluntary groups have stepped up demands to bring to book the culprits in the riots that preceded the attacks, which had claimed nearly 900 lives, mostly Muslims.

Signature campaigns by people demanding justice and petitions under the Right to Information Act claim little or no action has been taken against the rioters, including leaders of the Shiv Sena.

All cases against Sena chief Bal Thackeray were withdrawn.

"Though justice has come slowly in the Mumbai blasts case, it has ground to a halt when it came to the communal riots," said Nasim Khan, a lawyer and a petitioner from the Action Committee for the Implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report.

"What is the point in setting up a commission of inquiry if its recommendations are not to be implemented?" Khan told IANS.

Khan said that politicians indicted by the commission for inciting Hindu mobs have gone on to win elections and policemen accused of shooting dead Muslims from "point-blank and in cold blood" have either been acquitted or never brought to trial.

"Some indicted policemen have even been promoted."

Last Tuesday, the TADA court, in one of the world's longest trials, sentenced 12 accused, mostly Muslims, to death and 20 others to life imprisonment for the gory bombings which killed 257 people, injured hundreds and damaged property worth Rs 300 million.