The closure report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case of murder of Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty has brought to focus the manner of investigating murders and attacks on RTI activists in the state. Since 2009, the state witnessed murder of seven RTI activists.
In 2009, Shetty was murdered by unidentified people. Shetty, had exposed alleged transfer of government lands to private players and received threats. Unhappy with the slow pace of investigations, the Bombay High Court directed the CBI to investigate. The closure report was filed last week.
Shetty’s brother Sandeep stated he would move court against the closure report.
On April 21, 2010 Vitthal Geete of Beed district, was hacked to death by a group of villagers. Geete’s brother Arun and fellow activist Brijmohan Patil mentioned that the activist had taken up irregularities of Sainath Vidyalaya and filed complaints about educational society which ran it. Patil said Geete got threats due to his work but refused to back down. “He lodged a complaint with the director of education,” said Patil.
Framing of charges is yet to begin. “Police filed complaints against both. Framing of charges against the accused would happen before sessions judge and we hope it would happen in a few months,” said Patil.
Asked about investigations, Patil said there were loopholes. “When Geete was attacked, his wife intervened. In the process her saree was drenched in blood, which could have been produced as vital clue. But police had not seized it,” he said. Initially, police stated the murder was the fallout of gang rivalry. Following Geete’s murder, the director of education had de-recognised the school for alleged irregularities. Following the direction of a senior minister, the school has been allowed to function. “We filed a case in Bombay High court and hope justice would be done,” said Patil. Arun Geete said he has been receiving threat calls from his brother’s killers. “I told police about this,” he said.
In the case of another slain activist, Dattatreya Patil, six accused were released by lower courts for want of evidence. Dattatreya Patil from Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district was murdered on May 26, 2010. Patil was working on land grab by a cooperative body headed by a former MP. Kshamanad Patil, brother of the activist, says Patil has been working it for a few years before the murder. “The case involved distribution of government land to people from backward regions, and local corporators along with senior leaders ensured their followers got the land,” said Patil.
Ramdas Patil Gadegaonkar, a Nanded-based RTI activist, was killed in 2010. His friend Balaji Patil says not much has progressed in investigations.