Thursday, January 14, 2010

[rti_india] High court seeks answers from Maharashtra govt


High court seeks answers from Maharashtra govt


Shibu Thomas | TNN


Mumbai: A day after an RTI activist was hacked to death in Pune, the Bombay High Court on Thursday stepped in and sought answers from the Maharashtra government.

Alarmed at two attacks on citizenactivists in as many weeks — including the firing at Mumbai-based activist Nayana Kathpalia's house at Churchgate last week — a division bench of Justice F I Rebello and Justice J H Bhatia said "it cannot close its eyes to the incidents''.

"Such incidents, in our opinion, are aimed at dissuading public-spirited citizens and social activists from approaching the court to highlight illegalities,'' said the judges.

The court has now directed the Maharashtra government and the DGP to file a report on the status of investigations in both cases. Taking suo motu notice of TOI's Pune murder report, the judges asked the government to file an affidavit on the steps it has proposed to take to tackle the threats faced by social activists across Maharashtra.

The court took note of the attacks while hearing a petition filed by a Pune-based doctor, alleging that a police inspector had threatened him asking him to withdraw a PIL. "We take threats to activists and those who approach this court very seriously,'' said the judges, while asking the medical practitioner to approach the Pune police commissioner with his request for protection.

Maharashtra home minister R R Patil blamed the land mafia for the attack. "It is a serious issue. In urban areas with the cost of land shooting up, land mafias are once again becoming active. We will cut such mafias to size.''

The HC order was welcomed by activists who have been raising the issue of the spate of attacks on them in the last few years. "This will restore the confidence of citizens who are fighting public battles against vested interests many of whom have strong political backing,'' said environmental activist Sumaira Abdullali, who was present in the court in connection with another case.



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