LESS THAN a year after a failed attempt to withdraw the criminal case against Shiv Sena leader and member of Legislative Council Neelam Gorhe and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s personal assistant Milind Narvekar, the state government, in a surprise move, has cancelled the appointment of Special Public Prosecutor in the case, Prakash Suryavanshi, without citing any reason.
The case was filed in January 2011 after a tapped telephonic conversation between Gorhe and Narvekar had revealed a criminal conspiracy to engineer and instigate riots during a bandh in Pune in December 2010.
It is pertinent to note here that in 2010-11 at the time of the incident and registration of the case, a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party-led alliance was in power in the state as against the present BJP-Shiv Sena-led alliance. The Pune city police had tapped a conversation between the two on December 27, 2010 and had released the details of the conversation two days later. During the phone conversation, Narvekar had purportedly given instructions to Gorhe ‘to cause violence during the Pune bandh scheduled for December 28 by pelting stones, burning public transport buses and rioting while also ensuring that media coverage’. At least, 30 buses were damaged and burnt during the bandh the next day and several workers of Shiv Sena and other political parties were arrested.
The Bandh was called to oppose the removal of the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mentor Dadoji Konddeo from the historic Lal Mahal by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). An offence in this regard was registered at Bundgarden police in the first week of January 2011 and in April that year, on recommendation of Pune city police, the state government had appointed Suryavanshi as Special Public Prosecutor in the case.
When contacted, Advocate Suryavanshi confirmed that he has received a letter from the government four days ago saying he has been discontinued as Special Public Prosecutor in the case. Asked about the development, he said, “I have nothing to say about this. It is the government’s choice.” The court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class, where the hearings of the case are on, has not yet received the letter from the government about the case, thus it is not clear yet who will replace Advocate Suryavanshi.
In October 2015,the Maharashtra government had submitted an application to the court, asking for permission to withdraw the case. The application had cited a state government resolution (GR) allowing withdrawal of the case. It had also stated that a meeting in this regard was held at the Pune Police Commissioner’s office on September 21, 2015 and withdrawal of this case was approved along with some other cases. The committee was headed by the then city police commissioner K K Pathak.
Back in October 2015, Advocate Suryavashi has told The Indian Express, “I received an order from the government and I have accordingly submitted an application to the court.” The court had rejected the application citing several reasons and had said, “The GR was about offences that are registered for breach of prohibitory orders. The particular case pertains to criminal conspiracy for giving provocation with intent to cause riot. This is not an offence of breach of trust. The offence of criminal conspiracy to provoke riots cannot come under the purview of the GR. It seems that the committee has misconstrued the facts of the case and the intent of the GR.” The case is currently at a crucial stage where the charges are to be framed against Gorhe and Narvekar.
A city-based lawyer who has worked as special public prosecutor in several cases said, “Legally speaking, the government is a client and can choose the lawyer. But this particular move does raise a lot of questions, as the Shiv Sena is in power at present. Advocate Suryavanshi is an experienced and able lawyer and as I see no reason to change him at this stage of the case.”