Mumbai, Oct 3: Chhagan Bhujbal, the Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) minister on Friday, Oct 3 withdrew the defamation case against Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray for a report against him in the Party mouthpiece 'Saamna' on July 23, 1997, considering his age and unsound health.
Minister took the step following a request by Executive editor of the Paper and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut and printer of the daily Subhash Desai. After completing the formalities of withdrawal of the case in Bandra Metropolitan Court, Mr Bhujbal and Mr Thackeray's son and executive president of Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray came out of the court together.
Bhujbal had filed defamation suit against one Rajendra Agarwal, who had filed an affidavit stating that Mr Bhujbal was responsible for the defacing of a statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, Ghatkopar, an eastern suburb in Mumbai. The incident had erupted some violence in the area and in the subsequent police firing 10 people were killed on July 11, 1997.
Mr Bhujbal had also filed cases against Mr Thackeray, Mr Raut and Mr Desai for a report against him in the Saamna, based on Mr Agarwal's affidavit. On Aug 5, 2008 Mr Raut and Mr Desai through a letter requested Mr Bhujbal to withdraw the case against Mr Thackeray considering his age and health.
Chaggan Bhujbal said to the mediapersons that the trial court had held Mr Agarwal guilty for filling a false affidavit and had sentenced him to three months imprisonment. But the order was reversed by the sessions court, which acquitted him in April 2004. However, Mr Bhujbal had challenged the order in Bombay High Court and it is pending in the court, he said.
Agarwal had claimed that he was a close associate of Mr Bhujbal and that the latter had asked him to desecrate the statue of Dr Ambedkar. He also claimed that he had refused to comply, however, was shocked to see reports of the incident in the papers next day by some miscreants.
Bhujbal later rushed to Mr Thackeray's Bandra residence 'Matoshree' to meet him. Bhujbal, a former Shiv Sainik, had left the Party in 1991 and joined the Congress. Later, Mr Bhujbal joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) after NCP chief Mr Sharad Pawar decided to split from the Congress.