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The Supreme Court has instructed the Bombay High Court to expedite dormant riot cases

The bench noted that of a total of 253 riot-related criminal cases, one was still pending while 97 are dormant, as pointed out in an affidavit submitted by the state. (File Photo)

Friday, the Supreme Court requested the Bombay High Court to initiate action to speed up cases related to the 1992-93 communal riots that are pending due to untraceable or absconding defendants.

The bench of Justices S K Kaul, A S Oka, and Vikram Nath also established a committee to oversee efforts to compensate the families of 108 persons who were “missing” after the incident.

In its judgment on a 2001 petition, the court ordered the Maharashtra government to “accept and implement the findings of the Sri Krishna Commission”.

One of the 253 riot-related criminal cases is still pending while 97 are dormant, as stated in the state’s affidavit.

The court instructed the sessions court to dispose of the pending case as soon as possible. In addition, the Supreme Court requested that the High Court issue appropriate directions to the courts in which these cases are pending. The High Court must ensure that the concerned courts take proper measures to trace the accused. According to the report, the state government must establish a particular cell to trace the accused.

As a result of the violence and police firing, nine hundred people were killed and 2,036 were injured. According to the court, the state government failed to maintain law and order and to protect the citizens’ rights.

According to the statement, citizens have the right to seek compensation from the state because their homes, places of business, and properties have been destroyed. All of these violations violate the rights guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. One of the primary reasons for their suffering was the failure of the state government to maintain law and order. Thus, the affected persons were entitled to seek compensation.”

By a resolution dated July 8, 1993, the state government decided to provide financial assistance to persons affected by riots and serial bomb attacks. The second resolution of July 22, 1998, also offered compensation of Rs2 lakh to the legal heirs of the missing persons.

In addition to providing the top court with the breakdown of compensation paid, the state also stated that 108 families and other details could not be located, so compensation could not be paid.

Taking note, the Supreme Court has appointed a committee headed by the Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority to examine the records relating to 108 missing persons and asked the state government to nominate a Revenue Officer, not below the rank of Deputy Collector, as its other members, and a Police Officer, not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.

It is the responsibility of the Committee to monitor the efforts of the state government to locate the relatives of missing persons, whose addresses are unknown, as well as to assist those eligible persons who have failed to comply with the procedural requirements”, it stated. As well as monitoring compliance with the directions it issued regarding payment of compensation to all categories of victims, and the SC will also be required to monitor compliance with the directions it gave.

Observing that nine police officers had been charged with misdemeanours following the commission’s recommendations, the Supreme Court noted that FIRs had been filed against them based on the commission’s advice.

Despite their convictions, two were discharged, and seven were acquitted, which was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

The court argued that the state should have been vigilant and proactive in challenging these acquittals, pointing out that the state did not challenge these acquittals. There is no point in directing the state to investigate whether the acquittal orders should be challenged now.”

The SC stated that even though the state had accepted most of the committee’s recommendations on police reforms, “the implementation part remains”. Additionally, the report says that “the state government cannot ignore the recommendations made by the Commission regarding the improvement and modernization of the police force, and those recommendations will continue to guide the state government”.

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