The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry has issued guidelines for lawyers, witnesses, police, mediapersons and public for “semi-virtual hearings” of witnesses, scheduled to be held in Pune next week, from August 2 to August 6.
A press release issued by V V Palnitkar, secretary of the commission, stated, “Only witnesses and advocates concerned will be allowed to enter the court hall. If the number of advocates exceeds the sitting arrangement, admission into the hall would be given on a first come first serve basis. If any seats remain vacant after accommodating advocates, the others would be accommodated… but preference would be given to reporters….Only one advocate per party would be allowed in the court hall, subject to availability of seats.”
“A link would be generated to enable advocates, reporters and the general public to view the live proceedings provided they furnish their email addresses and contact numbers to the commission…,” added the press release.
The two-member commission, headed by retired High Court Chief Justice J N Patel and comprising former Maharashtra chief secretary Sumit Malik, was constituted by the state government on February 9, 2018, to inquire into the ‘exact sequence’ of events that led to violence on the 200th anniversary of Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1 that year. One person had died and several others were left injured in the violence.
So far, 29 witnesses have deposed before the commission, and examination of 25 has concluded. 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 then received three extensions of four months each, one extension of three months, one of six months and another extension of two months, from February 8 to April 8, 2020.
Hearings of senior officers as well as NCP chief Sharad Pawar were scheduled before the commission between March 30 and April 4 last year.
But due to the pandemic, on March 23, 2020, the commission issued a letter postponing the hearings till further notice. Meanwhile, the period of extension granted to the commission by the government expired on April 8. The Commission had then sought further extension of at least six months, saying it intended to examine nearly 40 to 50 more witnesses, including police and revenue officers, and some prominent political leaders.
Accordingly, the state government had given another extension to the commission, till December 31 this year. After the extension, the Commission has released its schedule for examination of witnesses between August 2 to August 6.
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