The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Maharashtra government and the Centre on two petitions seeking separate inquiries in the Palghar lynching case by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency, Live Law reported. The next hearing is scheduled for the second week of July.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and V Ramasubramanian heard the matter through videoconferencing. The petitions were filed by sadhus of Shri Panch Dashban Juna Akhara and relatives of the deceased spiritual teachers. They alleged that the state authorities were being biased in their investigation, PTI reported.

While the petition filed by the Juna Akhara sought a CBI probe, the petition filed by Ghanshyam Upadhaya asked for an NIA investigation.

On the night of April 16, three Mumbai residents, who were on their way to Silvassa, were lynched by local residents in Gadakchinchale village of Palghar district on the suspicion that they were thieves. A large mob of villagers had surrounded the car of the three men and started attacking them with sticks and iron rods, leading to their deaths. Two of the victims were sadhus from Mumbai’s Kandivali suburb, and the third was their driver. The police have arrested over 100 people in the case so far.

The plea filed by the Juna Akhara claimed that there was “reasonable apprehension of bias” if the Maharashtra Police continue investigating the case. “Several video clippings have emerged on social media and news reports which very clearly demonstrate the active involvement of the police present, who can be seen handing over the three persons to the unlawful assembly of persons gathered,” the plea said.

It added that the entire incident and the handling of the case raised several questions that are unanswered till date and will remain so, unless it is investigated by an independent agency. Advocate Balaji Srinivasan, representing the sadhus, also claimed that the witnesses in the case were taking their own lives.

The plea also sought a direction to the authorities to “favourably decide” the April 28 representations of the petitioner. It had asked for allotment of land at the place where the sadhus were killed, so that a memorial could be built.

Earlier in May, the top court had directed the state government to submit a status report on its investigation into the incident.

Advocate Subhash Jha, appearing for another petitioner, claimed they feared that evidence in the case had been tampered with. However, the counsel representing the state government opposed both the petitions and said there were already similar pleas pending before the Bombay High Court.

Apart from the state government and the Centre, the top court has also issued notices to the Maharashtra director general of police, the NIA and CBI.

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