The Bhima Koregaon Commission of Inquiry on Thursday fined Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote’s laywer Niteen Pradhan Rs 25,000 after he was three hours late for a hearing, causing a delay in the cross-examination of a witness.
Pradhan, who was held in the Bombay High Court because of another case, was told to pay the penalty to the Tata Memorial Hospital and submit a receipt to the commission.
This was the fourth and final day of Pradhan’s cross-examination of Bhimrao Bansod, who submitted a fact-finding report to the commission in June on the violence in Bhima Koregaon earlier this year.
Ekbote and another Hindutva leader, Sambhaji Bhide, were booked after violent clashes broke out between Dalit and Maratha groups at the village near Pune on January 1. One person was killed in the violence. Thousands of Dalits had gathered at the site that day to commemorate the anniversary of a battle there 200 years ago. Ekbote was arrested but was later released on bail.
During the hearing, Pradhan questioned Bansod about his ideology and alleged that he had compiled the fact-finding report on the behest of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar. The leader was reportedly one of the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad event in Pune, which was held the day before the violence broke out in Bhima Koregaon. The Pune Police and other Hindutva groups allege that the event was funded by Maoists to create social disorder.
The two-member inquiry commission, which started hearings on the matter in September, comprises Justice (Retired) JN Patel and Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner Sumit Mullick. So far, it has held four rounds of hearings in Mumbai and one in Pune. The current round in Mumbai will conclude on November 3. The hearings after that will be held in Pune from November 12 to November 16.
The commission has received an extension till December to file its final report. The deadline is likely to be extended again.