Bhima Koregaon commission gets extension until December 31st
The Bhima Koregaon inquiry commission has been given an extension from August 2nd until December 31st by the state home department. It is for the eighth time that the commission had been granted extension by the state government to complete the inquiry work in the case. A meeting on the topic of extension issue was held in Mumbai on Thursday wherein senior officials from the home department, retired high court justice J N Patel, former chief secretary Sumit Malik, who is the second member of the commission, VV Palnitkar, secretary of the commission, advocate Ashish Satpute, the commission’s lawyer, and advocate Shishir Hiray, the lawyer representing the state before the commission, participated in the deliberations.
VV Palnitkar, secretary of the commission said, “The commission has been informed by the joint secretary of the home department that the extension has been granted until December 31st. It will be a virtual hearing awaiting for notification and setting up the necessary facilities. If needed, lawyers will be permitted to carry out physical examinations. Media persons will be provided the link for live hearing.”
A demonstration of how to proceed with the hearing was also conducted in Mumbai on Thursday in the presence of top home ministry officials from the government and also members of the commission.
The two-member commission, headed by retired high court justice JN Patel, was constituted by the then state government under CM Devendra Fadnavis on February 9, 2018, to probe into the sequence of events that led to violence on the 200th anniversary of Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018. The commission has six terms of reference including identifying causes of the January 1, 2018 riots that took place in Pune, identify responsible groups, determine whether police and administration were prepared enough, and recommend short- and long-term measures.
The commission which was formed in February 2018 works out of the public information office at Madam Cama road, Mumbai and the Zilla Parishad building in Bundgarden, Pune.After the onset of COVID 19, the commission had written to the government that its staff was likely to face some problems especially about conducting hearings. It had become difficult for advocates and witnesses to attend the hearing due to the fear of infection.
The staff was also concerned about the high risk of the virus and have expressed their fears to conduct hearings, it was pointed out.
Hearings of senior government officials and also Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar were scheduled before the commission between March 30 and April 4, 2020 but were postponed till further notice due to Covid-19. Two FIRs one by the Pune police and other by Pune rural police have been lodged in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case wherein 16 persons comprising intellectuals, academicians, lawyers and activists have been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) so far.
The NIA later took over the case from Pune police.