‘Police cases filed in protests to be reviewed’Updated: Dec 05, 2019 01:00 IST
The Uddhav Thackeray-led government on Wednesday decided to review all police cases filed in social and political protests in the last five years. The government said it wants to “ensure that innocent are not being penalised.”
Shiv Sena’s political allies, especially the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), have been demanding that criminal cases filed against people involved in the Bhima-Koregaon protests, Maratha reservation rallies, farmers’ rallies, Nanar refinery protests, Aarey car shed protests and the Dhangar march be withdrawn.
Senior Shiv Sena leader and minister Eknath Shinde said, “We will review cases registered against people who participated in political and social protests in the last five years such as Nanar refinery, Maratha protests, farmers’ agitation, etc. An appropriate decision will be taken to ensure that no innocent person is punished.”
The government, however, clarified that the cases being considered to be withdrawn are non-serious in nature and those registered under Naxal activities against Elgar Parishad organisers, for instance, do not come under the state’s purview. Senior minister and NCP leader Jayant Patil said on Wednesday, “The non-serious cases registered for protests in Bhima-Koregaon and Maratha reservation agitations will be withdrawn after the review.” When asked about the cases against the urban Naxals, Patil said, “The cases are sub-judice in the Supreme Court and the law will take its own course. We will abide by the court orders.”
NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde, along with Congress MP Hussain Dalwai and Congress leader Arif Naseem Khan had demanded the withdrawal of the cases against “urban Naxals booked for organising the Elgar Conference” ahead of the Bhima-Koregaon violence. Munde, in his letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, said, “Many innocent intellectuals, social activists, and writers have been booked by terming them Naxalites. The cases should be immediately withdrawn. The previous Bharatiya Janata Party government had suppressed the voice of the people talking against it.”
“By taking back cases against those involved in Aarey or Nanar refinery protests, the government is showing its anti-development face,” BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said. “There is a clear attempt to protect urban Naxals and to pressure the government to shield Naxalite activities as both Congress and NCP have sought withdrawal of such cases.”
To be sure, the process of withdrawing cases in the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 1 and 2, 2018 and in the Maratha reservation protests in June and July 2018, began during the Devendra Fadnavis-led NDA government in which the Shiv Sena was a partner. A majority of the cases in the Maratha agitation have already been withdrawn.
The Fadnavis government had constituted a cabinet sub-committee under the then finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar in October 2018. Cases were registered against 371 people in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, while 328 people were booked in the Maratha agitation.
The director general of police had submitted a review of the cases. Later, the Mungantiwar committee withdrew cases against 271 Maratha protesters based on remarks from the law and judiciary department. The remaining cases are of serious nature with property damage exceeding ₹10 lakh each, and are unlikely to be withdrawn, officials said.
The director general of police had also submitted its report in the cases against 371 people in Bhima-Koregaon violence, but these had not been reviewed.
The law and judiciary department had also recorded its remarks pertaining to individual cases. “The decision of withdrawal of the cases will be taken either by the home minister or the cabinet sub-committee appointed in the new government,” said an official from the home department.
“Most of the 371 cases can be withdrawn by the respective courts where the charge-sheets are registered if the government recommends it.”
Congress and NCP leaders have also demanded that cases against the protesters opposing the refinery project at Nanar in Ratnagiri district and Aarey car shed in Mumbai be withdrawn. On Tuesday, Thackeray set up a high-power committee to review cases pertaining to these two protests. Twenty-three protesters face cases for agitating against the Nanar refinery project, while 29 have been booked for protesting the Aarey car shed. “A five-member committee under additional chief secretary Sanjay Kumar will review the cases and a report will be submitted in about two weeks,” said Amitabh Gupta, principal secretary (special), home department.
Home department officials said that though the withdrawal of cases is recommended by the government, only the respective courts can take a final decision.