The Bombay High Court Wednesday slammed the Maharashtra government for going slow on police officials who opened fire last year at protesting farmers at Maval, near Pune, resulting in three deaths.
Observing that prima facie it appeared to be a case of ‘homicidal murder’, a division bench comprising Justice P.B. Majmudar and Justice R.D. Dhanuka directed the state government to file an affidavit in the matter by March 26 and posted the public interest litigation for its next hearing for March 27.
They ordered the government to explain whether any departmental inquiry had been initiated against the erring police officials named in the first information report lodged in connection with the firing incident.
On Aug 9, 2011, around 500 farmers had agitated near Maval, protesting the move to lay an underground pipeline to supply water from Pavna Dam to the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation which, they claimed, would affect their (the farming community’s) water requirements.
The court asked the public prosecutor Pandurang Pol to explain whether protocol – like firing warning shots in the air first, then on the leg and not directly on the chest, preceded by caning or bursting tear gas – was followed before firing at the farmers.
Expressing unhappiness at the slow pace of investigations, the judges termed it as ‘despicable’ and warned that it could spell trouble for the government if the farmers’ deaths were not investigated properly and promptly.
Citing Supreme Court examples in fake shootout cases, the court pointed out that the apex court has clearly stated that it amounts to murder and accordingly, a case should be registered against the concerned police officer/s.
“You cannot kill people in this manner and probe in cases of police encounters or deaths by police are not done swiftly,” observed Justice Majmudar.
Following an outcry, the state government appointed a one-man commission of retired Justice M.G. Gaikwad which started its probe in the matter two months ago.