Expressing strong displeasure over Maharashtra's investigation of rationalist Govind Pansare's murder, the Bombay High Court said today that the state had been reduced to a "laughing stock", after reading a report submitted by the Special Investigation Team.
A bench of Justices SC Dharamadhikari and BP Colabawalla had summoned Maharashtra Home Department's additional chief secretary on March 28 to explain the cause of the slow progress made in the case.
"Let the state feel some pressure. It must face consequences someday. For most often, the police get away. No memos are issued, no explanations sought," the bench said.
"If crimes will be probed only after the court's intervention...If in matter after matter, judiciary is the only saviour, then it is a tragedy. What message are we sending to the society?" the judges asked.
As per the judges' observations made in an open court, the SIT submitted, among other things, that in order to trace two accused, it had questioned their relatives. It also submitted that one of the accused owned immoveable property in the state and, therefore, the SIT visited the place to trace his whereabouts.
The bench, however, said the SIT must realise that four years after the crime, it was unlikely the accused would stay within the state, or close to the crime spot.
"What stops them from going and hiding anywhere across the country? Merely because someone owns a property doesn't mean he will stick around in that area. The accused can seek shelter anywhere in the country. The elementary steps you are taking to nab the accused have reduced you to a laughing stock," the bench said.
"Because of you, the public has a perception that some people can get away, remain uninvestigated only because they enjoy a certain patronage," added.
"The state can't be a silent spectator. This is not a movie that you (police, probe agencies) come after everything is over. And if you (politicians) can't protect your people, then do not contest elections," the bench said.
The bench also directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the 2013 killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, to "tie-up all lose ends" in its investigation without further delay.