Mumbai, Jan 14: The Bombay High Court Thursday ordered the state government and police to probe Wednesday’s killing of Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty who had exposed many land scams in Maharashtra.
The suo moto order by a division bench of Justice F.I. Febello and Justice J.H. Bhatia came during a similar matter which was brought up before the court Thursday.
While the other matter was rejected, the judges asked Advocate General Ravi Kadam that the home department and the director general of police must probe the killing of Shetty and also an attack on another Mumbai activist Nayana Kathpalia last fortnight and submit its report to the court, said Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of Movement against Intimidation, Threats and Revenge against Activists (MITRA).
“Two days have passed since the incident and the state government is keeping mum over the issue. We are happy that the honourable Bombay High Court has suo moto taken up the cause now,” Abdulali said.
A leading social and RTI activist, Shetty was attacked with swords by some unidentified men when he was taking his morning walk in Talegaon, on the outskirts of Pune.
Shetty, 38, a systematic whistleblower, was credited with exposing several major land scams in the picturesque Talegaon-Lonavala regions, now a favourite with realtors in the state.
He shot to fame a few years ago after exposing certain corrupt land deals in and around the country’s first expressway, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway over a decade ago.
The fatal attack on Shetty came barely a week after the attack on Kathpalia and threats to Neera Punj of NGO Citispace.
“This has become a trend and social activists are considered soft targets, the government must take immediate steps to stop such attacks,” said Abdulali.
MITRA has recently sent letters to state Home Minister R.R. Patil listing the attacks on activists in the past few years.
Among the activists who have been assaulted or threatened are: Kathpalia was assaulted in May 2004, H.S. D’Lima threatened and assaulted in March 2005, James John threatened and assaulted in March 2006, Edwin Britto threatened and attacked in 2000 and again in June 2005, Suryakant Panchal assaulted in June 2004, Anandini Thakoor and Aftab Siddiqui threatened in July 2005, January 2009 and mobbed thrice, Navin Pandya threatened and attacked in September 2009, S. Ganesan threatened and attacked in November 2002, and Navleen Kumar attacked in 2002.
A MITRA delegation which included former Mumbai police commissioner J.F. Rebeiro and other prominent activists last year met the then police chief Hasan Gafoor and demanded that a separate cell be set up to monitor and handle attacks on activists.
On Jan 11, MITRA wrote to the police and home department officials complaining of delays and lack of action against those responsible for attacks on activists.