Palghar Mob Lynching: SC seeks status report from Maharashtra Government regarding probe in the Palghar matter.

The Supreme Court today asked the Maharashtra Government to report the probe status  into the lynching and consequent death of two Sadhus in Palghar.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition seeking the probe into the Palghar lynching incident to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT).

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna took up the PIL filed by Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha for hearing via video conferencing today.

The petition seeked Court-monitored investigation and/or transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleging that the police was complicit in the lynching of the two saints.

While it did not pass any orders as regards stay on the ongoing investigation in the case, the Court has sought a status report from the State of Maharashtra. The next date of hearing is fixed after four weeks.

The lynching of the two Sadhus and a driver took place on April 16 in Maharashtra’s Palghar. Following the brutal incident, the police had made several arrests in the case. Over 200 persons, including some minors, were arrested in connection to the case, while two police personnel stand suspended.

The petitioner cited media reports to suggest that there was a breakdown of law and order, as the police were complicit and the administration did nothing to prevent the horrific incident.

The petition was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for enforcement and protection of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 21. The same was done in the manner of Public Interest Litigation and was filed through Advocate Rashmi Bansal.

Following is the plea filed by the petitioner-

“The involvement of police in the said lynching not only shaken the faith of millions in the Police forces but has also made it impossible to trust the investigation carried on by the same police officials”.

The petition also highlighted the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the police chief of Maharashtra. The NHRC said and the same is mentioned in the petition- 

 “The commission has observed that the incident is apparently indicative of negligence by the public servants. The death of three persons in such a cruel manner by the unruly mob, that too during a countrywide lockdown, under extra vigil by the administration and police, amounts to gross violation of the right to life of the victims.”

In his petition, Jha has sought directions for the probe to be conducted by a Judicial Commission, or a court-monitored SIT, or an agency like the CBI. As of now, the investigation is being conducted by the CID of the Maharashtra Police.

The plea raises the possibility of the incident being pre-planned and says that there could have been police involvement in the same. The petition questioned the due diligence of the Maharashtra Police, it said- 

“The petitioner is moving this Petition for directions to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of deceased for equality before law under Article 14 who have already lost their Fundamental right to live under 21 ‘in-front of’ and ‘in custody’ of those who had the responsibility to protect it.”

Additionally, the petitioner has also sought for the trial in the case to be transferred from Palghar to the Fast Track Court at Saket Court, Delhi, in the interest of a fair and expeditious trial. The petitioner prayed for registration of an FIR against the police personnel present at the time of the incident.

By Aadarsh Mishra of ICFAI Law School, Dehradun