The Chhattisgarh government has decided to withdraw over 300 cases pending in different courts against tribals in the Maoist-affected areas of the state, an official statement issued on Wednesday said. The ruling Congress had accused the previous BJP government of implicating innocent tribals of the state in false cases, particularly in Maoist-related incidents.

The move comes after the indictment of the security forces, by a one-member judicial commission set up to probe an alleged encounter in which 17 people, including six minors, were killed in Sarkeguda, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, in June 2012. According to The Indian Express, the commission has noted that there was no firing by the villagers, there is no evidence to suggest they were Maoists, the villagers were assaulted and killed from close quarters; security forces may have fired “in panic” and one of the victims was shot in the morning, several hours after the encounter at night.

News agency PTI says, based on the recommendation of the committee, the Chhattisgarh government’s Law and Legislative Affairs department has decided to withdraw the prosecution after reviewing the cases registered against the Scheduled Tribe (ST) people in eight Maoist-affected districts, according to the statement issued by the state government.

“In this regard, a letter has been sent by the Law Department to the district magistrate of the eight districts concerned to take immediate action to withdraw the cases under the provisions of Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” it said.

In the meetings of the committee headed by Justice (retired) Patnaik on April 24, October 2 and October 30, the matter was sent to the Law Department recommending the return of 313 cases registered under the Chhattisgarh Excise Act, the statement said.

Of the total cases, the highest of 142 are in Rajnandgaon, 115 are pending in Jagdalpur, 34 in Kanker, eight in Kondagaon, seven in Dantewada, three each in Bijapur and Sukma and one in Narayanpur.

Another 312 cases of Indian Penal Code have been sent by the Patnaik committee to a panel constituted by the Director-General of Police, Chhattisgarh, which is under Section 265A, 265B and 321 CRPC, the statement said.

These sections have provisions on the withdrawal of prosecution from courts. The panel constituted by the DGP of the state shall submit its report to the Patnaik Committee, it added.

Expressing deep concern over the harassment of Scheduled Tribe residents and villagers of Maoist-affected areas of the state, especially in the Bastar region, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had decided to review the cases registered by the police against them. Accordingly, the seven-member committee headed by Justice (retired) Patnaik was formed.