The Supreme Court on Friday (May 1) sought a report from the Maharashtra government on the ongoing investigation in the Palghar incident in which two sadhus and their driver were allegedly lynched by a mob on the night of April 16.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna sought the report while hearing a plea, through video-conferencing, which has alleged that the incident was a failure on the part of the police as a mob had gathered there in violation of the lockdown rules.
The apex court, which refused to stay the investigation in the case, asked the petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to a standing counsel for Maharashtra and said the state would file a probe report within four weeks.
The plea, filed through his counsel Rashi Bansal, has sought a direction to the authorities to constitute an apex court monitored SIT or a judicial commission headed by a retired top court judge to deal with the case.
It has also sought CBI investigation into the matter and registration of FIR against concerned police officials for their failure to prevent the incident.
The three people — two sadhus and their driver — from Kandivali in Mumbai were travelling in a car to attend a funeral in Surat in Gujarat amid the lockdown when they were attacked and killed by a mob of more than 100 people (numbers could not be confirmed) in Gadchinchile village on the night of April 16 in the presence of a police team.
The victims were identified as Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70), Sushil Giri Maharaj (35), and the driver Nilesh Telgade (30).
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for petitioner Shashank Shekhar Jha referred to the media reports and claimed that police was complicit in the incident as they did not use force to prevent it.
“This happened despite the fact that the whole country is under lockdown since March 25 and that no person is allowed to be out of their house and everyone has been asked to follow social distancing which raises a huge suspicion on part of local police,” the plea said.
“During this whole incident, police did not take any concrete step to protect these innocent men which could be proved by the fact that they did not use any force to disperse the crowd and one of the video even shows that one of the police official actually pushed saints to the crowd when they were asking for the protection,” it claimed.
The plea has alleged that the whole incident was “pre-planned and there could be police involvement as well”.
It has also sought transfer of trial in the case from Palghar to a fast track court in Delhi.
The police has arrested as many as 110 persons in connection with the case. Nine of the accused are minors and have been sent to juvenile homes.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh later put out a list of all those who had been arrested.
He also clarified that there was no religious or communal angle to the incident, saying the attackers as well as the victims had been Hindus. He issued the statement after tensions grew among religious communities on social media following rumours about a communal motive behind this incident.
Following allegations against the police regarding their “inaction” and “negligence”, 35 police officers from the Kasa police station — the jurisdiction under which the lynching of the three people took place — have been transferred, while five police officers have been suspended.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has assured people that the culprits will be brought to justice.
On the other hand, leader of the state opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis accused the ruling party of not having the state and its people under the control of the law. He also sought a high-level enquiry into the incident.
(With inputs from agencies)