The state government on Tuesday passed a resolution granting a ‘final’ extension of two months to the Koregaon Bhima Inquiry Commission, whose term had expired on February 8.
The government resolution (GR) on the extension was issued after The Indian Express reported on Tuesday that the two-member commission had stopped its work from February 8, as there was no official communication from the government on granting an extension, as had been announced by state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on February 1.
V V Palnitkar, secretary of the commission, confirmed that the panel has received a copy of the GR from the state Home department. The GR — dated February 11, 2020, and signed by V M Bhat, deputy secretary of Home department, government of Maharashtra — mentions that the Koregaon Bhima Inquiry Commission has been granted a final extension till April 8, 2020. It further mentions that the commission should submit its report to the government within this extended period.
The commission was constituted by the then Devendra Fadnavis-led state government on February 9, 2018, to inquire into the ‘exact sequence’ of events that led to violence on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1 that year. One person had died and several others were injured in the violence.
A few weeks ago, the commission had submitted a ‘status report’ to the government, stating that it will require at least six more months to complete its probe as at least 50 witnesses were yet to be examined. So far, 29 witnesses have deposed before the commission, of whom examination of about 22 has concluded and the remaining have been partly heard.
Meanwhile, the commission has released the schedule for its hearings between February 24 and 26, during which it has called IPS officer Lakhmi Gautam, whose cross-examination hasn’t been concluded. The commission has also called Harshali Potdar, one of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case. Potdar was summoned earlier as well, but she has not yet deposed before the commission.
The commission was initially given four months to submit its report, but so far, it has received three extensions of four months each, and once for six months.
On January 31, Calcutta High Court chief justice (retired) J N Patel, the commission chairman, had sent a letter to the state chief secretary — with ‘Recommendation to wind up Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry for want of funds’ as the subject. Justice Patel had said the government “did not seem serious” about the work of the commission, which was not in a position to function as it didn’t even have money to take care of its day-to-day expenses.
Soon after the letter was submitted to the state Home department on February 1, the home minister had declared on Twitter that the commission has been given an extension of two months, funds have been released for the salaries of its officials, staffers and other expenses, and orders have been issued to take action against officials who caused a delay in releasing funds for the commission.
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