Retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant has slammed senior officials of Pune City Police for turning a conversation with him into a ‘statement’ without his knowledge and annexing it with a chargesheet filed in the Elgaar Parishad case.
However, Justice Sawant said he thanked the police officials after they gave him information about the alleged Maoist links of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a group that was among the organisers of the one-day conference, held in Shaniwar Wada on December 31 last year. Justice Sawant has said he was the organiser of Elgaar Parishad but didn’t attend the conference as he was unwell.
Meanwhile, taking note of the objections raised by Justice Sawant, police have prepared a new document based on the conversation with him, which they got checked by him today.
Pune City Police has claimed that organisers of the Parishad, held for marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, had Maoist links and “provocative” speeches at the event had triggered violence in Koregaon Bhima the next day, January 1, when thousands had gathered in the area to mark the anniversary of the battle. Pune Police has booked 22 persons, including artists of the KKM, under sections of the IPC and UAPA in the case.
Statement raises doubt over Pune City Police probe
The statement by retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant — that his conversation about Elgaar Parishad with officers of Pune City Police was included in the chargesheet without his knowledge — puts a question mark on the police's tactics. The retired judge said he was planning to hold a second 'Elgaar Parishad' on January 12. With both the Lok Sabha and assembly elections scheduled next year, a second Parishad may have substantial political impact, as members of several anti-BJP and anti-RSS outfits are expected to gather for it.
On November 15, the city police filed a 5,160-page chargesheet before a special court against 10 accused, including five activists arrested on June 6 and five who are absconding.
A document in the chargesheet, Tapas Tipan (investigation note)’, dated November 11, 2018, mentions a statement attributed to Justice Sawant. As per this statement, Justice Sawant told police he was not aware of who would be speaking at the Parishad and he was not linked to any programme held in Maharashtra under the banner of ‘Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyaan’.
Justice Sawant said a police team had met him on November 11, but he was never told that the police officials were taking his statement. “When I have not given any statement, there is no question of going into the content of the document. I object from word one,” he said.
Justice Sawant said the team comprised Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Shivaji Pawar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Suhas Bawache and a constable.
“They were not in uniform so I thought they had come for an informal conversation…They told me that urban Naxal was not a term coined by police, but it was a part of Naxal literature. They discussed with me that KKM has links with Maoists. I thanked them for this information….I told them I organised Elgaar Parishad on December 31. A similar conference was organised on October 4, 2015, at the same venue by Desh Bachav Aghadi, formed by our NGO Lokshashan Andolan. The NGO was set up by me and (retired Bombay High Court judge) B G Kolse Patil. This year, we organised Elgaar Parishad with the same topic. The only difference was this time, the KKM joined us,” he said.
But Justice Sawant said the conference had nothing to do with the gathering at Koregaon Bhima the next day. “Many people who go to January 1 every year had gathered in Pune on December 31 … some of them came for the Elgaar Parishad as audience members…… Even though I was president of the Elgaar Parishad, I was hospitalised on December 29 and could not attend the conference. As per my knowledge, the speakers for the conference were not decided till December 28. Till then, only i, Kolse Patil and Prakash Ambedkar were scheduled to speak at the programme,” said Justice Sawant.
He said on November 29, he got to know from a KKM member that police have annexed his statement in the chargesheet. “I was shocked. So, I called officer (ACP Pawar), saying they had played a game with me… Pawar and DCP Bawache came to meet me on November 30. I told them they… owed me an explanation”.
“The police officials said they had prepared the document from the points discussed with me on November 11. But I said it was clearly done without my knowledge and it was also annexed to the chargesheet… I asked them ‘did they not have any other evidence against the accused?’….The officers assured me that they would make the correction…. they said they would get this document checked by me before it was taken on record,” he added.
Justice Sawant said if police could resort to such “subterfuge with me, then what investigation must they be conducting when others were involved. I was shocked”.
Queried if he was planning to take legal action against police, Justice Sawant said he would not hurry as police have responded to his objections and admitted their mistake.
ACP Pawar said, “Justice Sawant is a respected person and we went to meet him on November 11 after formally taking an appointment . We held a meeting with him again and there are no misunderstandings now.