In a significant development, the Bombay High Court on Thursday suo moto ordered the Maharashtra government and the state police to probe the killing of Pune-based RTI activist Satish Shetty.

The division bench of Justice F.I. Febello and Justice J.H. Bhatia issued the order when a similar case was brought up before the court.

While the judges rejected the case, they told Advocate-General Ravi Kadam that the home department and the police must probe the killing of Shetty and the attack last fortnight on another Mumbai activist, Nayana Kathpalia, and report to the court, said activist Sumaira Abdulali.

The judges said the report, including security measures being taken for the activists, must be submitted within a week.

Rattled by the court order, the government announced that it would launch an offensive against land sharks and land mafia all over Maharashtra.

Home Minister R.R. Patil told mediapersons late Thursday evening that the government was seized of Shetty’s killing and would not spare the land mafia responsible for the incident.

“We are happy that the Bombay High Court has suo moto taken up the cause now,” Mr. Abdulali said.

A leading social and Right to Information (RTI) activist, Shetty was attacked with swords and choppers by unidentified men when he was on his morning walk at Talegaon, on the outskirts of Pune.

Shetty, 38, a systematic whistle-blower, was credited with exposing several major land scams in the picturesque Talegaon-Lonavala regions, now a favourite with realtors in the state.

He shot to fame a few years ago after exposing certain corrupt land deals in and around the country’s first expressway, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

The fatal attack on Shetty came barely a week after another prominent Mumbai social activist, Nayana Kathpalia, was attacked and Neera Punj of Citispace was threatened.

“This has become a trend and social activists are considered soft targets. The government must take immediate steps to stop such attacks,” said Sumaira, convener of the Movement against Intimidation, Threats and Revenge against Activists (MITRA).

MITRA has sent letters to Home Minister R.R. Patil listing the attacks suffered by activists in recent times.

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