A two-member Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, probing into the causes of January 1, 2018, violence, has stopped work since February 8, pending an official communication from the state government on the two-month extension announced by Home Minister Anil Deshmukh earlier this month.
The commission, whose term expired on February 8, was constituted by the state government on February 9, 2018, to inquire into the “exact sequence” of events that led to the violence on the 200th anniversary of Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1 that year. One person had died and several others injured in the violence.
Advocate Ashish Satpute, who was appointed as the lawyer for the commission, told The Indian Express, “It is not possible for us to prepare a further schedule of the commission’s work unless we get official orders regarding the extension of its term.”
When contacted, V V Palnitkar, commission secretary, confirmed they have not received any official order from the state government.
According to sources, when the commission authorities had contacted senior officials of state home department in the matter, they were reportedly assured that funds towards pending salaries and expenses would be released soon. They were reportedly also informed that while a proposal for the extension of the commission’s term has been put up, the government was yet to issue any order on it.
On January 31, Calcutta High Court chief justice (retd) J N Patel, the commission chairman, in a letter to the state chief secretary had said the government “did not seem serious” about work of the commission and stated that the commission was not in a position to function for want of money to even take care of its day-to-day expenses. The other member of the commission is former chief secretary Sumit Malik.
“Salaries and honorarium of all, including honourable chairman (Justice Patel), are due from December 2019 onward. Most of the staff members are hired on a contract(ual) basis. They would starve for want of salary…” stated the letter with the subject ‘Recommendation to wind up Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry for want of funds’.
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. He also said that funds have been released for the salary of officials, staffers and other expenses. Deshmukh also stated that orders have been issued to take action against officials who had caused a delay in releasing funds for the commission.
However, no official communication has reportedly been issued in the matter by the state home department to the commission. The pending salaries and bills of the commission also remain to be paid.
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. So far, it has received three extensions of four months each, and one for six months. As its current tenure expired on February 8, a further extension of two months was announced.
A couple of weeks ago, the commission had submitted a “status report” to the government stating that it will require at least six months more to complete its work as at least 50 witnesses are needed to be examined. So far, 29 witnesses have deposed before the commission, of whom examination of about 22 has concluded while the remaining have been partly heard.
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