Maha govt for judicial probe in Jalna firing

Mumbai: Maharashtra Government on Wednesday agreed to have a judicial probe of the police firing in Jalna district on Monday.

Police said they had to fire to quell the mob which had become violent after 14 pilgrims were run over by a private container.

Replying to an adjournment motion on the issue in the Legislative Assembly, Home Minister R R Patil said prima facie the firing seemed to be justified as there was a massive stone-pelting by the villagers after the accident.

"Warkaris (pilgrims) were cooperating with the police and had been gathered on roadside. Police did not cane warkaris, nor did they fire upon warkaris," Patil asserted, adding that no warkari was hurt in the police firing.

Patil said eight to nine police vehicles were burnt by the rampaging mob. There was also an oil tanker parked nearby, and there could have been massive damage, had it been set on fire by the mob, he said.

Police resorted to caning, and also fired tear-gas shells before firing 37 rounds in the air, he said.

Patil said he had photographs to show that the stones pelted by the villagers landed where the bodies of dead warkaris were kept. The situation could have gone out of hand if the police had not acted, he stated.

Two persons were killed and three were injured in the firing, the Home Minister said, assuring that an inquiry would be conducted by the Revenue Commissioner from another district to find out if the firing was necessary. However the Opposition was not agreeable.

"How can a Revenue Commissioner conduct a probe as to whether police firing was necessary?" asked Leader of opposition, Eknath Khadse (BJP).

Patil said that Commissioner's findings would be shared with the party leaders in the Assembly,?and if they were not satisfied, he would order a judicial probe.

But with the Opposition unrelenting, the Home Minister finally agreed to a judicial probe.

He also agreed to increase the compensation amount. The Chief Minister had announced the compensation of Rs one lakh on Monday evening, but Khadse said it should be Rs 5 lakh each.

The Home Minster said government would bear the treatment expenses of the injured.

Adding that the driver of the container was found to be drunk, he said government will take action against the owner of the container too, "as per the law".