Plea alleging Sambhaji Bhide's direct involvement in Bhima Koregaon riots still pending hearing; petitioner moves Bombay HC
The complainant in the Bhima-Koregaon riots, Anita Ravindra Sawale, whose FIR landed accused Milind Ekbote in prison, has moved the division bench of the Bombay High Court seeking arrest of accused No.1 in the FIR — Sambhaji Bhide.
Five days before Tushar Damgude filed his FIR — now widely understood as the one which sparked this week's multi-city raids and five arrests in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence from late last year — there was another FIR, that named people who have not been prosecuted. Who are these people? What are their names?
The complainant in the Bhima-Koregaon riots, Anita Ravindra Sawale, whose FIR landed accused Milind Ekbote in prison, has moved the division bench of the Bombay High Court seeking arrest of accused No.1 in the FIR — Sambhaji Bhide. Citing deliberate inaction on the part of Maharashtra government and the police, Sawale’s lawyers Yogesh More and Suresh Mane have sought directions for arrest of Sambhaji Bhide, production of records pertaining to the investigation conducted against Bhide and have requested the high court to oversee the investigation in the matter.
The writ states that despite of ‘several criminal antecedents to his name’, including being previously accused in the Sangli Communal riots of 2007 where no action was taken, the Maharashtra Police continues to evade arresting Bhide.
Copy of the petition filed against Bhide in Bombay High Court
Sawale registered an FIR on 2 January, 2018 with the Shikharpur Police Station stating that while she was on her way to Vijay Stambh in Koregaon Bhima for commemorating Shourya Din, she witnessed pre-planned violent attacks by weapon-wielding individuals against those travelling to Koregan Bhima. The clashes led to the death of a youth and it was at behest of Bhide and Ekbote. Both were charged with non-bailable offenses under Section 307, 143, 147, 148, 295A, 120B, 117, 153 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3(2)(v) and 3(1)(10) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Attrocities) Act of 1989, Section 435, 436 of the Arms Act of 1959 and Section 4(25) of the Bombay Police Act of 1951.
Copy of the FIR filed by Anita Sawale
The petition states that immediately on 4 January, 2018, a public morcha was organised in Sangli by Bhide and his organisation (which marched till the District Collector’s office) to have his name removed from the FIR. Pursuant to this, a counter FIR was registered by Tusharam Gadage after six days with the Vishram Bagh Police Station attributing the attacks at Koregaon Bhima to instigation by anti-state songs sung by Kabir Kala Manch activists at Elgar Parishad. After escaping arrest for two months, Ekbote was arrested on 14 March, 2018 after the Supreme Court rejected an anticipatory bail application filed by him.
While Ekbote has been arrested, the writ filed by Sawale states that no action has been initiated against Bhide who despite being accused No 1 in the case and mentioned as the ‘conspirator’ behind the attacks in the complaint, is "roaming freely conducting public meetings in different parts of Maharashtra and continues to spread enmity between communities by distorting versions of Maratha history".
On the contrary, the writ alleges that due to the "close proximity enjoyed by Sambaji Bhide with the Prime Minister of India as well as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, both belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party", the Maharashtra Police have failed to initiate legal action against him. It further states that the petitioner claim stands to be strengthened by the clean chit given by the Chief Minister of Maharshtra, Devendra Fadnavis, in the Maharshtra Legislative Assembly on 28 March, 2018 where he stated that “there was no evidence against Sambaji Bhide”.
Basing these events as necessary proof for collusion, the petitioner has alleged that conduct of free and fair investigation has been vitiated and has pressed for the Court’s immediate intervention in the matter. This writ was filed on 18 April, 2018 and despite numerous mentions, continues to be in pre-admission stage. The bench comprising of Justice Savant and Justice Mohite-Dere are yet to hear the matter.
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