Mumbai: The case papers related to a Save Aarey campaigner have gone missing from the Bombay High Court. Activist Avijit Michael and the trustee of NGO Jhatkaa.org was arrested in May 2018 during the protest against Mumbai Metro car shed in Aarey Colony. He and others, several of them students, were detained for obstructing government officials from discharging their duties.
Apart from other charges, Mr Michael was also charged with making Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s (MMRC) Managing Director Ashwini Bhide’s phone number public. The Mumbai police had termed it as a “denial of service” attack on Ms Bhide, which prevented her from discharging her duties. Mr Michael was later released on bail.
During a hearing on November 29, 2022, the HC stated that the Registry had not placed the petition papers of Mr Michael’s case. Stating that they are “under search”, the Registry had directed Mr Michael’s counsel Vijay Hiremath to recreate the papers and “ensure” they were produced during the next hearing.
Ms Bhide’s phone number was provided via a text message to all petitioners who signed up for the Save Aarey campaign. The message stated that the National Green Tribunal was set to hear a case regarding the Aarey forest and Ms Bhide should be called and asked to consider new alternatives.
Mr Michael was booked under section 43(f) of the Information Technology Act, which penalises for ‘denial’ to any person authorised to access any computer or device by any means. He was also booked under section 66 of the IT Act, which is punishable for sending offensive messages through a communication service.
NGO Vanashakti Director Stalin Dayanand said that in his response to the RTI application, he received a reply from the Public Information Officer, Revenue & Forest Department, contending that all documents pertaining to their office, including the land transfer documents of Aarey, were lost in the fire at Mantralaya on June 21, 2016. He further said that some documents related to Aarey cannot be found by the authorities.
Mr Michael and Mr Hiremath refused to comment on the matter terming it sub-judice. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation spokesperson declined to comment on the subject.
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