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Criticising the Maharashtra government for failing to frame guidelines on safety of social activists and organisations that face threat due to their activism, the Bombay High Court asked the state to take immediate steps to ensure their security.

a division bench of acting Chief Justice D D Sinha and Justice K K Tated said, “It is high time for the state government to take immediate, appropriate and effective steps in ensuring the safety of whistleblowers and activists by evolving comprehensive guidelines.”

The court was hearing a suo moto (on its own) petition taken up after the murder of Pune-based RTI activist Satish Shetty.

In May 2010, another bench of the High Court, after going through the recommendations made by the amicus curie (appointed to assist the court), laid down certain measures to be undertaken by the government and directed for a committee to be set up to look into the issue.

The court was today informed by additional government pleader Nitin Deshpande that a special committee has been set up to scrutinise proposals for protection of activists.

The bench, however, noted the state government is still silent on the guidelines and the time frame within which the committee has to consider proposals.

According to the court, “Considering the sensitivity of the issue, the government ought to have formed the necessary guidelines long time ago.”

The bench has directed the government to grant interim police protection to any activist or organisation, identified by the committee as a social group, if a complaint is received of threat.

“The committee shall then look into the complaint and decide if protection is required,” the court directed.

The government has been asked to file an affidavit within four weeks stating by when guidelines would be formed.

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