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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Elgaar Parishad case accused doesn’t turn up, Koregaon Bhima inquiry panel drops her as witness

The chairman of the commission, Justice (retired) J N Patel, passed an order dropping her as a witness.

By: Express News Service | Pune | Published: February 27, 2020 6:31:55 am
On January 1, 2018, the day of the anniversary, violence had broken out at Koregaon Bhima, in which one person was killed and several injured. (File)

The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday dropped Harshali Potdar, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, as a witness as Potdar didn’t appear before the commission even after being summoned.

The chairman of the commission, Justice (retired) J N Patel, passed an order dropping her as a witness.

Advocate Ashish Satpute, lawyer for the commission, said, “Harshali Potdar was supposed to appear before the commission. But neither Harshali nor her lawyer appeared after the commission started its work today. After waiting for some time, the commission passed an order dropping Harshali Potdar as a witness because she was not willing to depose.”

After Justice Patel passed the order, Potdar’s lawyer appeared before the commission and submitted an application, stating that she could not appear due to medical problems. There was no hearing over this application as the order was passed before it was submitted.

Potdar was among the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad, an evening conclave held at Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, a day before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. On January 1, 2018, the day of the anniversary, violence had broken out at Koregaon Bhima, in which one person was killed and several injured.

Potdar had filed an affidavit before the two-member commission, and blamed Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for the violence in her affidavit. While the Commission had summoned her a few times in the past for deposing as a witness, she didn’t appear before it, citing medical reasons. Both Ekbote and Bhide were accused of inciting the violence in cases registered under Pune Rural Police jurisdiction. Ekbote was arrested in March 2018 but released on bail a month later, while Bhide was never arrested, apparently due to lack of evidence.

Pune Police has claimed the speeches at Elgaar Parishad contributed to the violence, and organisers of the event had links with the Naxal outfit CPI-Maoist. Police had named 23 accused, including Potdar, in connection with the case and arrested nine of them in 2018.

The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by the Centre in January. The NIA has, in its FIR, named 11 people, including the nine arrested accused and two others, activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Potdar is not among the 11 accused named in the NIA FIR.

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