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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Why Sharad Pawar is called to depose as witness before Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry?

The commission had earlier summoned Pawar to depose as a witness on February 23 and February 24. But on February 21, he sought adjournment of his hearing as he wanted more time for filing an additional affidavit with detailed information and it was granted.

koregaon bhima violence case sharad pawarNCP chief Sharad Pawar (Express Photo)

The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry has summoned Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar to depose before it as a witness on May 5 and May 6.

The two-member commission, headed by retired High Court Justice J N Patel, is probing the causes of violence in Maharastra’s Koregaon Bhima area on January 1, 2018, in which one person died and several others were injured. The commission had earlier summoned Pawar to depose as a witness on February 23 and February 24. But on February 21, he sought adjournment of his hearing as he wanted more time for filing an additional affidavit with detailed information and it was granted.

Widespread violence was reported in Koregaon Bhima and adjoining villages in the Pune district when lakhs of Dalits, mainly the Ambedkarites, gathered at the ‘Jaystambh’ in Perne village to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018. Following this, Pawar raised suspicion about the role of Hindutva groups in violence.

But in his affidavit filed before the commission on October 8, 2018, Pawar stated that he was “not in a position to specifically make allegations against any particular organisation” for causing the Koregaon Bhima violence. He also stated that “it is unfortunate that the state government and law enforcement authorities failed to protect the interest of common man residing at Koregaon Bhima and around localities of Pune district. The active role of right-wing forces behind the violence at Koregaon Bhima cannot be ruled out. However, concrete evidence can be gathered only by the law enforcement agencies of the state.”

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After the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, including the NCP, came to power in the state, Pawar held a press conference on February 18, 2020, and made allegations against right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote, Sambhahi Bhide and raised doubts about the role of the Pune city police in the investigation of Elgaar Parishad case, in which several activists from different cities of the country were arrested for their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist.

Then, on February 20, 2020, lawyer Pradeep Gawade (who is now a BJP office-bearer), representing a witness Sagar Shinde, submitted an application at the commission’s office in Mumbai saying, “….statements of Pawar (in the press conference) are within the purview of the terms of reference of the commission and therefore relevant….”

Gawade further prayed that in the interest of justice, summons be issued to Pawar and he be asked to depose before the commission in person and furnish any additional information he has so that the commission can arrive at its findings “in a just and fair manner”.

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The commission summoned Pawar to depose as a witness on April 4, 2020. But the hearings of the commission were stopped due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Pawar recently filed his additional affidavit and has now been summoned by the commission to depose on May 5 and May 6. If he appears, he will be cross-examined by lawyers representing different witnesses before the commission.

The commission may also summon Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis who was the chief minister of Maharashtra at the time when the Koregaon Bhima violence took place. He has not submitted an affidavit before the commission but some lawyers have requested the commission to call him for cross-examination.

First published on: 28-04-2022 at 02:06:39 pm
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