Bhima-Koregaon violence: Two charitable trusts file PIL against Prakash Ambedkar, others

Mumbai: Two charitable trusts, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India and Public Concern for Governance Trust have filed Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court (HC) against the State of Maharashtra, The Director General of Police (DGP), Commissioner of Police (CP), Mumbai, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, Republican Party of India (RPI), Bahujan Mukti Party (BMP), Baudhjan Panchayat Samiti (BPS), Shivraj Pratisthan and Samasta Hindu Aghadi.

The petitioners are represented by DM Sukthankar (former Chief Secretary), Julio Ribeiro (former Commissioner of Police), Shyama Kulkarni, Gerson da Cunha (ad man) and others, supported by Action for Good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI). The divisional bench of Justices Shantanu Khemkar and Makarand Karnik were hearing this PIL. They have challenged the constitutional validity and legality of the bandh called on January 2 and 3, by Prakash Ambedkar, the President of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the petitioners represented by advocate AM Jaykar of Jaykar and Partners informed the court, this bandh called by Ambedkar was supported by other parties, except the last two Hindu organisations.

Also important to note, the petitioners demanded that the police need to investigate the role of the two right-wing Hindu outfits. “As it has been reported, the entire incident on January 1 at the Koregaon Bhima site, was incited by respondent Nos 8 and 9, who instigated their supporters to make caste-based remarks. Therefore, it is also important for the DGP, CP and the state of Maharashtra to investigate into the cause of the said incident on January 1 at Koregaon Bhima and ascertain the role played by these two.”

The petitioners have held the DGP, Maharashtra, CP Mumbai and the state are responsible for failure to prevent violence and for not preventing the bandh and are in fact, guilty of violating the fundamental rights of petitioners and the general public as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioners stated, ‘The bandh affected the state and the Public Exchequer incurred a loss in Mumbai alone, to the tune of Rs 800 -1000 crores.’ “The city came to a crippling halt, public property was destroyed, the ordinary citizen’s daily routine was disrupted and several people died. The bandh was called in violation of judgments of this HC and the Supreme Court.”

The petitioners stated, “Protestors belonging to Ambedkar and supported by protestors of RPI, BMP, BPS ensured that public transport was paralysed, thereby crippling the mode of transport of a majority of persons desirous of going to their places of work/offices.”

The special counsel representing the DGP, CP and state, Hiten Venegaonkar pointed out to the bench, “Investigations have begun and in Mumbai alone 74 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been filed, few arrests too have been made. The sections applied are bailable, but action has been taken,” said Venegaonkar. He added, “In such a case however, the court will also have to direct someone to quantify the total loss or damage to property caused in the incident,” Venegaonkar said.

At this time, the bench asked the government pleader to make their stand clear in an application to be placed before the bench. The bench also issued notices to the Maharashtra government over a Public Interest Litigation seeking punitive action against Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar and other participants of the state-wide bandh called in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon violence in January this year. The court has given special counsel four weeks to file a reply.

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