Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren had postponed his scheduled cabinet expansion due to the incident and had ordered setting up of SIT to probe the case. (Photo Credit: Representative image)
At least 15 accused were arrested in connection with the brutal murder of seven people in Jharkhand’s Chaibasa, said ADG Operations ML Meena on Sunday. All of them have been sent to the judicial custody, he said, adding that further investigation is underway.
The arrests came after the Supreme Court has asked the newly elected Jharkhand government to clarify whether it wants to withdraw cases against four tribal activists booked under sedition charges for allegedly writing Facebook posts supporting the Pathalgarhi movement in the state.
On January 22, supporters of Pathalgarhi movement, armed with lathis and axes had kidnapped seven villagers and later killed them in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand for allegedly opposing their stir. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren postponed his scheduled cabinet expansion due to the incident and had ordered setting up of Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case.
The top court was informed by the accused that the Hemant Soren government in the state had, in one of the first decisions of the Cabinet, announced that it would take back all criminal cases related to the movement.
Pathalgarhi is a name given to a tribal protest which seeks autonomy for village sabhas (gram sabhas). Those demanding Pathalgarhi want no laws of the land be applicable on the tribal people in the area. The Pathalgarhis reject government rights over their forests and rivers.
As part of the movement, Pathalgarhis erect a stone plaque or signboard outside the village/area, declaring the village a sovereign territory and prohibiting the entry of outsiders.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta asked standing counsel for Jharkhand, Tapesh Kumar Singh, to take instruction and inform it in two weeks about any decision of withdrawal of cases.
"List after two weeks. In the meanwhile, learned counsel for the state of Jharkhand is directed to get instructions as to whether the state intends to proceed with the criminal cases registered against the petitioners," the bench said in its order uploaded recently.
The Jharkhand High Court had on July 22, last year, declined to quash the sedition charges against four accused -- J Vikash Kora, Dharm Kishor Kullu, Emil Walter Kandulna and Ghanshyam Biruly -- who were booked for inciting supporters of Pathalgarhi movement through their Facebook posts to attack police officials after three police guards of former BJP MP Karia Munda were abducted in year 2018.
According to the prosecution, an FIR was registered against the accused under section 121 (waging war against India), 121A (conspiracy to wage war against India), 124A (sedition) of the IPC and also under provisions of of Information and Technology Act.
Twenty people were booked in the case out of which only four approached the apex court for quashing the sedition and others charges made against them.