The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday extended his support to 13 Marathi police officers convicted in the fake encounter case of Ram Narayan Gupta, alias Lakhan Bhaiya, an alleged aide of underworld don Chhota Rajan.

The Sessions Court last week sentenced the 13 police officers along with eight others to life imprisonment.

“R.R. Patil (State Home Minister) boasts of not letting criminals loose in this State. If that is the case, then was he (Lakhan Bhaiya) the saint? He was a criminal. Then why doesn’t the government support the Marathi policemen who killed him in the encounter?” asked Mr. Thackeray at a press conference on Saturday. Earlier, families of the convicted policemen met Mr. Thackeray and apprised him of the case.

“It is obvious that senior IPS officers and their political bosses knew about the encounter. But none of those non-Marathi officers have faced the investigation. Why it is that only Marathi officers are targeted?” he asked.

Mr. Thackeray claimed that such decisions of the court would have negative effects on the police force. “The families have decided to move a higher court and I expect that justice will be delivered. My party will extend full support to the families of these police officers,” he said.

Commenting on the recent decision of the Supreme Court upholding the Bombay High Court order that quashed the Maharashtra government’s ban on dance bars, Mr. Thackeray said the State government itself was not willing to close them. “Elections are approaching and these bar owners have huge amounts of money. Maybe that was the reason why the case was not given proper attention,” he claimed.

The MNS chief, however, did not oppose the apex court’s decision of lifting the ban. “Every coin has two sides. I wouldn’t say that dance bars should remain open but every individual should decide what is right for them,” he said.