Bhima Koregaon Commission: Govt apathy, Covid situation delay panel probe, yet again
PUNE The state government recently granted the ninth extension to Bhima Koregaon Commission till June 30, 2022, and directed it to complete the remaining work and submit the final report by the said date.
The two-member commission was constituted on February 19, 2018, by the Devendra Fadnavis government. However, due to Covid-19, lack of manpower, and on an occasion, government apathy has led to delay for the commission to submit the report.
The commission will begin its next and final hearing from January 18. During the tenure of the commission, as many as 30 witnesses have deposed before the commission and 25 have been examined so far.
Earlier the commission had been given the eighth extension from August 2 until December 31 by the state home department after a high-level meeting on extension issue was held in Mumbai which was attended by senior officials from the home department, retired high court justice JN Patel, former chief secretary Sumit Malik, who is the second member of the commission, secretary of the commission, VV Palnitkar, the commission’s lawyer, advocate Ashish Satpute, and the lawyer representing the state before the commission, advocate Shishir Hiray.
The Bhima Koregaon Commission had announced the suspension of its functioning due to lack of space on October 31 last year following which the state home department informed the panel that one room would be made available in Mumbai to conduct the hearings. The two-member commission, headed by retired high court justice JN Patel, was constituted by the then state government under Fadnavis on February 9, 2018, to probe into the sequence of events that led to violence on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018.
Former high court judge BG Kolse Patil said, “The commission is a farce as it is a proven example that states appoint a commission to delay justice. In this case, the culprits remain untouched while the innocents have been jailed. There is no hope for justice from any government .”
The commission has six terms of reference including identifying causes of the January 1, 2018 riots that took place in Pune, identifying responsible groups, determining whether police and administration were prepared enough, and recommending short- and long-term measures. The commission was initially given four months to submit its report, but its tenure was extended repeatedly giving it time to complete its investigation into the exact sequence of events leading to the clashes. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the commission issued a letter on March 23, 2020, and had postponed all hearings until further notice.