The Maharashtra state cabinet on Monday, in a blatant bid to protect its own, passed the home department’s proposal to withdraw police cases against thousands of political workers — a majority from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government — for carrying out political and social agitations from May 2005 to November 1, 2014.
The cases registered against political party workers during protests, morchas and agitations on social or political issues will now be withdrawn provided they are not criminal in nature and do not involve a loss to public property worth Rs 5 lakh or more.
The cases involving loss of life will not be withdrawn.
The previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government had similarly withdrawn cases against political workers prior to 2005.
According to a senior minister, the decision will provide a major relief to the workers from the ruling parties, including smaller factions like the Swabhimani Paksha and Jansurajya Paksha.
“We have been in the Opposition for the past 15 years and had to resort to taking to the streets on various issues, including fair and remunerative prices for agriculture produce, compensation to drought- and flood-affected farmers and protests against the price rise of petroleum products. Though the exact number of cases is not known, they are most likely to come to thousands,” he said.
This exemption can potentially help clean up the records of several legislators as well as some of the ministers in the ruling regime.
The proposal also contradicts the home department’s ordinance moved in 2008 that made political workers and parties liable to pay for the damages during such agitations.
However, a senior official from the home department said before withdrawing such cases, the people involved will be made to pay for losses less than Rs 5 lakh. The amount will be divided among the people against whom the case has been registered, on a pro-rata basis, he added.
Activists, however, alleged this is easier said than done.
Former IPS officer-turned-advocate YP Singh called the decision illegal. “The decision taken by the ruling parties is nothing but a step towards helping their own because many incumbent ministers may have cases pending against them. This is sheer misuse of power; the loss to public property during the agitations and their recovery has not been verified properly before passing orders. Though courts are not compelled to accept the proposals of the withdrawal made by the state, most of these applications are admitted,” he said.
The cabinet decision states that the committees under the state collectors in a district or commissionerates will take the final call on the withdrawal of the cases.