The Supreme Court has sent notice to the Maharashtra government, the CBI and the centre after the families of two sadhus killed by a mob in the state's Palghar district in April demanded a probe by the central agency. The top court told them to reply within two weeks.
The two sadhus and their driver were killed on the night of April 16, amid the coronavirus lockdown, after rumours spread that they were kidnapping children to harvest organs, including kidneys.
The relatives of the two sadhus told the top court they have no faith in the investigation by the Maharashtra Police.
The petitioners said the handling of the case has created religious polarisation, and under these circumstances only an independent probe by a central agency would bring justice. Advocate Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for the petitioners, alleged witnesses are killing themselves, which shows the investigation into the mob lynching is off track.
Another petitioner raised concerns over possible destruction of evidence and sought a probe by the National Investigation Agency.
The Maharashtra government opposed the petitions in the Supreme Court on the ground that similar petitions are pending in the Bombay High Court.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan in the video-conference hearing then said it would take up the case again in the second week of July.
The incident in Palghar had former Maharashtra allies BJP and Shiv Sena going at each other at a time when the nation was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The older of the two sadhus, 70, was seen in visuals holding on to a policeman as the mob attacks him with sticks and rains blows. The police were outnumbered by the crowd that had built up in violation of lockdown orders. A back-up team would have taken time to reach as some parts of the road also had a ghat section.
Over 100 people have been arrested.