Maharashtra can ban Sanatan Sanstha, but its legality can be challenged: Experts
Can Sanatan Sanstha be banned, is the question that has arisen as there have been voices seeking a government ban on the Hindu right-wing organisation.
The group can be banned by the government based on the administrative findings of the investigating agencies, but the legality of the ban can be challenged and its effectiveness will remain a question, said legal experts.
Sanatan Sanstha, which proclaims itself to be an organisation with a mission to protect the country and the Hindu religion, made headlines when its alleged members were arrested for planting a bomb at a theatre in Panvel in 2008 during the screening of Bollywood film ‘Jodhaa Akbar’.
Since then, alleged members of the group have been named in or linked to various incidents, including the killings of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi, Communist leader Govind Pansare and journalist Gauri Lankesh. But investigations in these cases are still in progress, and there is no concrete evidence yet to prove the culpability of Sanatan Sanstha as an organisation in these crimes.
“Based on these findings, the government can move to ban Sanatan Sanstha. But the ban can be challenged when one learns that there is no umbrella organisation known as Sanatan Sanstha to which all these allegations can be attributed,” said a senior advocate representing the state, requesting anonymity.
A senior IPS officer said since being registered as a trust in 1991, Sanatan Sanstha has flourished over a period of 27 years and its members have carried out due diligence, in terms of registering the organisation under different entities, to ensure there are no direct links to its key leaders.
“There are more than 80 organisations registered under the name of different individuals in Maharashtra alone bearing different registration names, numbers and offices. None of these bodies can be directly linked to any of the crimes,” the officer said, requesting anonymity.
Chetan Rajhans, spokesperson of Sanatan Sanstha, said on Monday, “None of the five persons arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) owe allegiance to Sanatan Sanstha.”
Sanjeev G Punalekar, advocate of Sanatan Sanstha, said, “We hold our annual convention in Goa, where members from more than 140 Hindu groups participate. We do not keep a check on the activity of members from other organisations. Around 10 lakh people follow the Sanatan dharma, but are not active members of Sanatan Sanstha. If any of them carry out any crime, we cannot be held responsible.”