The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Maharashtra government to apprise it of the inquiry and action taken against the errant police personnel in the alleged lynching of three people, including two seers, in Palghar district in April. A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy asked the state government to also file the charge sheet before it, saying it would like to examine them.
"A further affidavit dated July 29, 2020 has been filed by the State of Maharashtra which mentions in paragraph 3 that two charge sheets have been filed in July 2020. Let the State bring the charge sheets on record," the bench said.
The top court said, "It has further been stated that a departmental enquiry against the police personnel was ordered and show-cause notices have been issued. Let details of the enquiry, including the action taken against the police personnel as well as enquiry report, are also brought on the record."
The bench asked Maharashtra to file an affidavit and posted the matter after three weeks. The bench was hearing a batch of petitions including the one filed by Sadhus of 'Shri Panch Dashban Juna Akhara' and relatives of the deceased seers.
During the hearing, Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the media reports suggest that the charge sheets filed in the case comprised more than 10,000 pages. He said it has to be considered by the court as to whether there were any policemen involved in the offence or was there any dereliction of duty calling for disciplinary action.
Counsel appearing for one of the petitioners said that the two seers were virtually handed over to the mob and it was a massacre. Advocate Rahul Chitnis and Sachin Patil, appearing for the Maharashtra government, told the top court that two charge sheets have been filed in the alleged lynching case.
Chitnis said the third Charge sheet will be filed by next Monday relating to attack on policemen when they went to arrest the accused persons. He said this case was not directly related to the alleged lynching incident.
Mehta suggested that the third Charge sheet should be filed before the top court as well and the court should decide whether it's relevant or not. Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, appearing in-person, said that unless the Centre looks into the matter, seers will continue to be killed in Maharashtra and NIA should investigate the matter.
He said the incident happened in April and now it's August, but still no action has been taken against any policeman. The three victims from Kandivali in Mumbai were travelling in a car to attend a funeral at Surat in Gujarat amid the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown when their vehicle was stopped and they were attacked and killed by a mob in Gadchinchile village on the night of April 16 in the presence of police.
The victims were identified as Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri, 70, Sushil Giri Maharaj, 35, and Nilesh Telgade, 30, who was driving the vehicle. The state government in its affidavit filed in the top court by Assistant Inspector General of Police (Law and order) said that investigation of the incident was carried out by the district police up to April 20.
It said that considering the seriousness of the incident, number of accused involved and in order to maintain complete fairness, independence and transparency in the investigation, the case was transferred to the specialised unit of State Criminal Investigation Department with effect from April 20. The affidavit said two charge sheets were filed in the cases by the CID on July 15, in which 126 persons each were made as accused.
"A departmental enquiry was ordered against the police personnel, who have been prima-facie found negligent and derelict in the performance of their duties in handling the incident and preventing the commission of crime at and around the time of incident," it said.
The affidavit said that after completion of the departmental inquiry against the delinquent police personnel, Special Inspector General of Police, Konkan range has issued show cause notice to six police personnel out of which five are suspended.
It said that after receipt of replies from the suspended police personnel to the show cause notice, further action will be taken against them. On June 11, the top court had sought a response from the state government on two petitions seeking separate probes by the CBI and the NIA into the alleged lynching.
The plea filed by sadhus of 'Shri Panch Dashban Juna Akhara' and relatives of the deceased seers has alleged that the investigation by the state police was being conducted in a biased manner and sought transfer of the probe to CBI.
"Several video clippings have emerged on social media and news reports which very clearly demonstrate the active involvement of the police present, who can be seen handing over the three persons to the unlawful assembly of persons gathered," the plea has claimed.
The other pleas, seeking probe by central agencies into the incident, has been filed by Ghanshyam Upadhyay and Shashank Shekhar Jha. The top court had on May 1, directed the Maharashtra government to submit a status report on the investigation in the matter. The police has arrested over 100 people in connection with the case.