The state government and the director general of police (DGP) have one week to file an affidavit listing the steps taken to investigate Pune-based activist Satish Shetty’s murder, the Bombay High Court said on Thursday.
Thirty-nine-year-old Shetty, a Right To Information activist, was murdered by unidentified persons near his home in Talegaon Dabhade, 40 kms from Pune, on Wednesday morning.
The HC took suo motu [on its own motion] cognisance of the murder saying it “will not let public spirited people who approach the high court to espouse public cause to suffer like this.”
“Such incidents in our opinion are to dissuade the citizens, who expose irregularities, from approaching this court,” said the division bench of Justice F I Rebello and Justice J H Bhatia.
The court also referred to the attack on social activist Nayana Kathpalia in Mumbai last week and asked the government and the DGP to state how they planned to tackle threats other public interest litigants approaching the court are facing.
Shetty, who was actively involved in the anti-corruption drive initiated by activist Anna Hazare, had campaigned against irregularities in land transactions.
Kathpalia had filed a public interest litigation through her organization, Citispace, opposing slum rehabilitation projects on the city’s open spaces. The attack, police suspect, was to dissuade her from pursuing the case.
Pune-based doctor Rohit Mehta had raked up the issue of threats to public-spirited persons approaching the high court and exposing irregularities.
Mehta’s lawyer Amit Kumar Bhowmik, had sought police protection for the 56-year-old urologist and laproscopic surgeon apprehending threats to his life. He cited many instances when police officers and revenue authorities, apart from the land mafia, had threatened him.
The court declined to direct the police commissioner of Pune to give Mehta police protection after Advocate General Ravi Kadam said there was no threat to his life.
Kadam also alleged that Mehta may misuse the court’s directives in pending proceedings before local courts in Pune.
The judges, however, gave Mehta the liberty to approach the police commissioner of Pune if he really felt there was a danger to his life.