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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Koregaon Bhima case: Commission suspends all hearings citing lack of suitable place in Mumbai

V V Palnitkar, Secretary, Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, said, “The place currently available for holding the hearings in Mumbai is small and not sufficient for carrying out work at a time when Covid-19 norms are still in place."

Written by Chandan Haygunde |
Updated: November 1, 2021 9:41:37 pm
Koregaon Bhima panel to call Mumbai police JCP to depose as witnessRetired Justice Patel said the commission will be calling him as a witness and asked state’s lawyer Shishir Hiray to reply and file Nangare Patil’s affidavit.

The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry has suspended all its future hearings till the Maharashtra government provides them a suitable location to conduct the hearings in Mumbai.

The two-member commission, headed by retired Justice J N Patel, was formed to probe into the cause of the Koregaon Bhima violence on January 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others were injured.

The Commission has during its recent hearing in Pune issued summons to IPS officers Param Bir Singh and Rashmi Shukla to appear as witnesses. Both were required to respond to the summons by November 8.

V V Palnitkar, Secretary, Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, said, “The place currently available for holding the hearings in Mumbai is small and not sufficient for carrying out work at a time when Covid-19 norms are still in place. The Commission had written to the government a few times even in the past seeking bigger places like Sahyadri guest house or Yeshwantrao Chavan Auditorium. Meetings with government officials were also held for this purpose as we want to call some important witnesses for hearings in Mumbai. But no suitable place was provided. So it is decided to suspend future hearings till a proper place is made available in Mumbai.”

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The Commission was initially given four months to submit its report, but its tenure had to be repeatedly extended to allow it to complete its work. The commission had also postponed its hearings till further notice due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

But the period of extension granted to the commission before the pandemic expired on April 8, so the commission had then sought further extension of at least six months saying that it intended to examine 40 to 50 more witnesses, including police and revenue officers and prominent political leaders. Accordingly, the state government granted extension to the commission till December 31, 2021. The commission then conducted hearings of witnesses in Pune from August 2 to August 6, 2021. But the hearings in Mumbai were postponed due to unavailability of a bigger place.

“Commission has been conducting hearings in Pune. Recent hearings in Pune took place in Pune between October 18 and October 23. There were plans to conduct hearings in Mumbai from November 8 to 12. But further hearings have been suspended due to unavailability of a proper place,” said Ashish Satpute, the lawyer for the commission.

On October 22, the commission had summoned IPS officers Param Bir Singh and Rashmi Shukla. Shukla was the Pune Police Commissioner when the Koregaon Bhima violence had taken place and is currently posted in Hyderabad as the Additional Director General of CRPF (South Zone). Elgaar Parishad, a conclave, was held in the jurisdiction of the Pune City Police on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.

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Param Bir, a former Mumbai police chief who is currently untraceable, was in August 2018 the Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), when he had addressed a press conference releasing documents seized from persons held in the Elgaar Parishad case for alleged links with the banned CPI (Maoist).

Param Bir was removed as the Mumbai Police Commissioner after he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in March with several allegations against then state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. Since then, five FIRs have been registered against Param Bir in Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court is hearing a plea filed by Shukla against an “illegal” phone tapping case registered by the Mumbai Police. The alleged tapping of phones had taken place when Shukla headed the state intelligence department (SID). Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis had cited a letter, purportedly written by Shukla to the then DGP, about alleged corruption in transfer of police officers. The letter had also mentioned details of intercepted calls and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has alleged that Shukla tapped phones without permission.

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