The judicial inquiry commission looking at the Koregaon-Bhima case has received an application to summon Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar in view of certain statements made by him in the media about the 2018 caste violence near Pune.
One of the members of the Vivek Vichar Manch (a social group), Sagar Shinde, on Thursday filed the application before the panel through his advocate Pradip Gawade, seeking that Pawar be asked to depose before the two-member commission.
Shinde cited a press conference of Pawar held on February 18 in his plea.
As per the application, at the press meet Pawar alleged that right-wing activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide had created a “different” atmosphere in Koregaon-Bhima, located on outskirts of Pune city, and its vicinity.
“In the same press conference, Mr Pawar also alleges that the role of Pune city police commissioner is doubtful and must be investigated. These statements are within the purview of the terms of reference of this commission and therefore they are relevant,” Shinde said in the plea.
The applicant said he has reasons to believe Pawar has relevant and additional information, apart from what he has already shared in his earlier affidavit filed before the panel regarding the violence and other related matters.
“Therefore, in the interest of justice, this applicant makes a prayer to the commission to issue a summon to Mr Pawar and require him to depose in person and furnish additional information he has so that the commission can arrive at its findings in a just and fair manner,” he said.
Earlier, on February 14, a spark of tension became visible between the allies of newly formed Maha Vikas Aghadi government as the Nationalist Congress Party, an ally of the coalition, chief Sharad Pawar hit out at the Maharashtra government over its alleged joint decision with the centre to transfer the Bhima-Koregaon case to the National Investigating Agency (NIA).
Pawar termed the decision as “unconstitutional” as he said that it violates the state’s jurisdiction over law and order issues.
“The behaviour of some in the Maharashtra Police (involved in Bhima-Koregaon investigation) was objectionable. I wanted the role of these officers to be investigated. But ministers in the Maharashtra government met police officers one morning, and the centre ordered its transfer to the NIA at 3 pm the same day,” Pawar had said.
Pawar had, on October 8, 2018, filed an affidavit before the commission, headed by former Bombay High Court Chief Justice J N Patel. Former Maharashtra chief secretary Sumit Mullick is the other member of the judicial panel.
The former Union minister, in his affidavit, had stated, “I would not be in a position to factually point out the chronology of the said events as that would be the domain of the existing Law and Order machinery.”
He had also stated, “I would not be in a position to specifically make allegations against any particular organisation.
“However, it is unfortunate that the state government and law and enforcement authorities failed to protect the interest of the common man residing at Koregaon Bhima and its vicinity.”
Pawar’s party is now a key constituent in the Shiv Sena-led government in the state. The commission was set up when the BJP was in power in Maharashtra.
The former chief minister had further stated the active role of “right-wing” forces behind the violence at Koregaon Bhima can not be ruled out.
However, concrete evidence in this regard can be gathered only by law enforcement agencies of the state, he had said in the affidavit.
Gathering of anti-social elements in large numbers at Koregaon Bhima indicated the failure of law enforcement agencies, the NCP leader had told the panel.
“Hence, the state of Maharashtra has to own the responsibility of a failed law and order situation on January 1, 2018,” he had stated.
The commission was constituted by the then BJP government to find out what led to the violence.
The Pune police have alleged “provocative” speeches given at the ‘Elgar Parishad conclave’, held on December 31, 2017, triggered the violence. According to the police, Elgar Parishad conclave organsiers had links with Maoists.
Centre had transferred the case to NIA on January 25, a move which came days after the state government had hinted that it might take a relook into the events that take place at the conclave.
The case is related to the alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at a conclave a night before the violence broke out near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial over two years ago.
The violence occurred on January 1, 2018, it took the life of a man and several others were injured during the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.
Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government had arrested several human rights activists in the case of violence on charges of being linked to Maoists.