The Bombay high court on Wednesday lashed out at the Maharashtra government for dragging its feet on initiating action against erring police officers whose firing on agitators at Maval in Pune district resulted into the death of a farmer in August 2011.
A division bench of Justices P B Majmudar and R D Dhanuka observed that prima facie it appears to be a case of "homicidal murder".
The judges directed the government to file an affidavit explaining whether a departmental inquiry has been initiated against the erring police officers who have been named in the first information report.
The farmers had gathered to oppose the state government's decision of laying a closed pipeline to supply water from Pavna dam to the industrial town of Pimpri-Chinchwad.
The agitators claimed that due to the closed pipeline they would not get water for their crops. One farmer was killed when police opened fire to disperse the protesters on Mumbai-Pune express way on August 9 last year.
The court, while hearing a PIL filed by social activists seeking inquiry by an independent agency into the firing incident, directed the police to explain whether proper protocol was followed before opening fire on the agitating peasants.
"Firing has to be done in the air first, in order to disperse the crowd; then, on leg....never on the chest. Was lathicharge done or tear gas used before opening fire?" Justice Majmudar questioned.
The court further observed that the investigation into the incident was sluggish. "The investigation is going on at snail's pace in a serious matter like this."
Asking the government to act rapidly to "restore public confidence", the court observed that the Secretary of the Home Department should take care of such situations. The government has to file its affidavit by March 26 and the matter has been posted for hearing on March 27.