Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray assured a delegation of NCP leaders comprising cabinet members Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal and legislators Prakash Gajbhiye and Dhananjay Munde that criminal cases filed against Dalit activists in connection with the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 2 and 3, 2018, would be withdrawn as early as possible.
The NCP demand came after Thackeray asked the state home department, after taking over as CM on November 28, to immediately withdraw criminal cases filed against activists booked for protesting the cutting of trees in Aarey Colony.
“Law-enforcing agencies had initiated criminal proceedings against activists for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence. All of them were falsely implicated, so we requested the CM to withdraw the cases immediately, and he acceded to our request,” Gajbhiye said.
Violence had erupted at Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district on January 1, 2018, a day after the conclave, 'Elgar Parishad, was organised to commemorate 200 years of a famous battle between the Peshwas and the East India Company.
Nine activists held in the Elgar Parishad case –Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and P Varavara Rao-have been accused of having links with the banned CPI (Maoist), which Pune police claim supported and funded the Elgar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017. The police also claimed that those arrested were “top urban Maoist operatives”.
On the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1 last year, a large number of people had gathered at the memorial near Pune. A day after the event, clashes broke out in Bhima Koregaon after some people reportedly waving saffron flags, pelted stones at cars going towards the village near Pune. While the crowd was dispersing, violence erupted not only in Pune and surrounding areas but across the state. A 28-year-old youth, Rahul Patangale, was killed in the violence. Two people accused of the violence on January 1 – Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide – are Hindutva right-wing activists. Neither of them has been arrested so far.
Police then registered 58 cases against 152 people for the violence. Subsequently, on February 9, 2018, the state government appointed Justice JN Patel, a former judge of the Bombay high court, to probe all aspects of the violence under the Commission of Inquiry Act. The commission was expected to complete the probe within three months. However, it has been granted extension until it completes its inquiry.
The Criminal Procedure Code (Section 321) provides for when a public prosecutor can withdraw cases. Such withdrawal can be done with consent of the court at any time before a judgment is pronounced.