AFTER a failed attempt in 2015, the state government has once again sought permission from the court to withdraw a criminal case against senior Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe and the party’s executive president Uddhav Thackeray’s personal assistant Milind Narvekar for orchestrating riots and violence during a bandh in Pune in 2010.
In a phone conversation with Gorhe on December 27 in 2010, Narvekar had allegedly instructed her to incite violence during the Pune bandh scheduled on the next day, by organising stone-pelting, burning public transport buses and rioting while also simultaneously informing TV crews to cover it.
The Pune police had tapped the phones of the two, based on intelligence inputs suggesting that some of the leaders from the political parties would try to instigate violence during the Shiv Sena-backed bandh, which was called to oppose the removal of the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mentor Dadoji Konddeo from the historic Lal Mahal by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The Congress-NCP coalition was in power in the state when the incident took place.
Narvekar had allegedly told Gorhe on the phone to gather at least 200 to 300 workers and set some of the public transport buses on fire at the bus depots and then set some vehicles on fire on the highways between Pune and Mumbai. The next day, at least 30 buses were damaged and burnt during the bandh and several workers of Shiv Sena and other political parties were arrested. Gorhe and Narvekar were later booked by Pune police under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 153 (promoting enmity between different groups and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 120 (b) (hatching criminal conspiracy).
“The government has again made an application in the court to withdraw the case. The application in this regard has been sent through the District Government Pleader a few days ago by the Law and Judiciary department. The arguments on the application have taken place and the court is expected to give its ruling this week,” advocate A K Pacharne, the present public prosecutor in the case, told The Indian Express.
In October 2015, the Maharashtra government had submitted an application to the court, asking for the permission to withdraw the case. The application had cited a state government resolution (GR) allowing withdrawal of the case of political nature.
The court had then rejected the application. “The case is of criminal conspiracy for wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot. The letter issued by the assistant director of prosecution mentions that it is decided to withdraw cases against Ganesh Mandal volunteers. But this case is not against Ganesh Mandal volunteers. The offence of criminal conspiracy to provoke riots can not come under the purview of the GR and its purpose has been misconstrued,” the court had said then. Sources said that the latest application was sent as part of a set of eight to 10 cases of political nature to be considered by the court for withdrawal.
After the withdrawal application was rejected in 2015, the government had cancelled the appointment of Prakash Suryavanshi, the then special public prosecutor in the case, without citing any reason. The decision had raised several eyebrows in the legal fraternity. Also, over the years, prosecution’s several attempts to collect the voice samples have yielded no success as the two have kept refusing to give their samples to the police, stating that it violates their personal liberty.