Wednesday, July 26, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Court discharges Thackeray
Case time-barred     *12 Sena MLAs suspended

MUMBAI, July 25 (PTI) — Amid high drama, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was today arrested and produced before a city court in unprecedented police escort only to be released by a magistrate who declared that the case of inciting riots against him was “time-barred.”

Ending 10 days of fear and tension that Mr Thackeray’s arrest could spark violence, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate B.P. Kamble said in a brief order that “the offence registered cannot be taken congnizance of. It is time-barred. The accused is released and the offence is closed.”

Hordes of Shiv Sainiks burst into wild scenes of jubilation and set off crackers after the magistrate threw off the prosecution case after an hour-long hearing.

His discharge is seen as a setback to the government’s efforts to haul him up over the coals for his alleged inflammatory writings in party mouth-piece ‘Saamna’ during the 1992-93 riots in the city.

A beaming Thackeray emerged out of the court flashing the victory sign and later told reporters that his prosecution was an act of “political vendetta” by the NCP-Congress government.

He demanded the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who had sanctioned his prosecution as Home Minister.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh reacted by saying that the state would move a higher court against the magistrate’s order.

Mr Bhujbal said the arrest of Mr Thackeray was not his mission and the magistrate’s order was not a setback to his political career.

As the drama ended, Mr Thackeray announced all three Sena ministers, who had resigned from the Vajpayee government, to resume work.

Earlier, tension heightened as the Sena chief left his Matoshri residence in his limousine after a posse of as many as 500 policemen descended at his place to escort him to the court. Mr Thackeray claimed he had invited the police to arrest him.

En route he surrendered to the police at the residence of Shiv Sena Mayor of Mumbai from where he was arrested and taken in a bullet-proof car in a 20-vehicle convoy to the court. Spontaneous bandhs were observed in some parts of the city as the Sena chief was taken to the court.

In the court the prosecution had a difficult time when the magistrate pulled it up for not being able to complete the investigation in the case within the specified time frame of three years for reasons best known to them.

Mr Kamble observed that the offence registered was barred by limitation under Section 168 (2) (C) of the CrPC and hence the court could not take cognizance of the case.

The magistrate also passed strictures saying that it was not open to the prosecution to arrest a person under the garb of sanction. It disapproved of the Maharashtra Government’s plea for condoning a delay in granting prosecution.

He said the prosecution had made vague prayers in the remand application urging for suitable orders from the court.

“What exactly has the prosecution sought through the remand was not clear. In the absence of any specific prayers, the court has no other option but to release the accused since the arrest was barred by time,” he added.

The verdict has come as a severe blow to the Maharashtra Government, which had vowed to implement the report of the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the 1992-93 communal riots.

Counsel for the accused Adik Shirodkar and Satish Maneshinde told the court that their clients “had chosen to surrender” before the police at the Mayor’s bungalow because they desired that law should take its course. They urged for discharge of the accused because the cases were time-barred.

Before the court ordered his release, unruly scenes were witnessed in the state Assembly protesting his arrest following which 12 Sena MLAs were suspended, six of them for one year and another six for six months.

Assembly Speaker Arun Gujrathi, who was provided with a security cover by marshals as violent Sena and BJP members gheraoed him on the podium, announced that the Sena members had been suspended for their “objectionable behaviour” creating hurdles in the conduct of the House.

The speaker’s table was damaged, chairs broken, mikes removed and glass-panes of the recording room smashed as Sena-BJP members turned violent to protest against Mr Thackeray’s arrest.

Before the commencement of the House, Sena-BJP members resorted to slogan shouting against Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, also the Home Minister. The Speaker’s silver mace was snatched by a Sena member as others resorted to breaking chairs and started throwing pieces of paper.

The members also overturned the Speaker’s table and removed the cushion from his chair and stood on tables, shouting “Chhagan Bhujbal hai hai”, “Hamse jo takraeyga mitti mein mil jayega”.

In the council, Chairman N. S. Pharande adjourned the House following noisy scenes after the entire Opposition protested over “deliberate” jamming of telephone networking system and demanding information on the alleged arrest of Mr Thackeray.

After a short adjournment when the situation did not improve, the Chairman adjourned the House for the day.

Earlier in the council, Leader of Opposition Nitin Gadkari (BJP) along with Sena members Diwakar Raote, Arvind Sawant and others entered the well of the house and shouted slogans against the government and Mr Bhujbal, who was not present.

Mr Gadkari and others wanted to know as to who had ordered the telephone system jamming in Mumbai which had “caused a great hardship to users”.

Some members tried to remove the silver mace from the Chairman’s table but good sense prevailed and they left it.

Mr Pharande was seen requesting the members with folded hands to return to their seats since he was directing Minister of State for Home Kripa Shankar Singh to make a statement in the House within an hour on phone failures.

Sena member Nitin Shinde was in a furious mood and broke the chair of the legislature secretary as his colleagues were trying to pacify him. Mr Neela Desai and others displayed anti-government posters, condemning the government’s action against Mr Thackeray, which was objected to by Chairman Pharande.

When the Opposition, particularly Sena members, continued with the rampage, the Chairman decided to adjourn the House.

Earlier, Mr Gadkari alleged that telephone networking system was jammed following a request from the Commissioner of Police to the Chief Secretary who approached the central government authorities concerned.

Mr Sawant and Mr Prakash Jawdekar (BJP) said an Emergency-like situation was prevailing in the state, particularly in Mumbai. Mr Pharande said his office phone in the legislature was also not working.

The members suspended for one year are Mr Shivsharan Birajdar Patil, Mr Anil Rathod, Mr Subhash Vankhede, Mr Ashok Shinde, Mr Subhas Sabne and Mr Suresh Salokhe while those suspended for six months are Mr Kalyan Patil, Mr Gulab Patil, Mr Sitaram Bhoir, Mr Dilip Bhole, Mr Ravindra Mane and Mr Vinayak Raut.

The motion for the suspension was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rohidas Patil.

Even as the Speaker was announcing the names of suspended MLAs, some of the Sena members attacked the security personnel.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was later closetted with his ministers, while Sena-BJP leaders were holding a separate meeting in the Vidhan Bhavan.


RS adjourned amid ruckus
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 25 — The Rajya Sabha was adjourned abruptly for the day today in the post-lunch session as Shiv Sena members clashed with Opposition Congress members while attempting to raise the issue of the release of their leader Bal Thackeray.

Soon after the House re-assembled for the post-lunch session, Shiv Sena member Satish Pradhan sought to raise the issue of Mr Thackeray’s release even as Congress members insisted that their party colleague Suresh Pachauri be allowed to complete his submission on the objections raised by Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitley over the Income Tax officials visiting her residence in connection with their raid on cricketer Ajay Jadeja’s property.

Almost the entire Opposition had staged a walkout just before the House was adjourned for lunch after Chairman Krishan Kant deferred a discussion on the issue till tomorrow to enable him to go through the rules. When the House re-assembled, Mr Pachauri insisted on making a submission on the Jaitley episode without mentioning her name.

BJP members led by Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu vehemently objected to Mr Pachauri taking up the issue, especially after the Chairman had given his ruling that he would study the matter and the issue may be taken up tomorrow.

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