In a huge setback to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday ordered a court-monitored probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) into the heinous cases of murder, rape and crime against women and other human rights violations that happened in West Bengal in May 2021 after TMC returned to power.
According to the reports, a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justice IP Mukerji, Justice Harish Tandon, Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Subrata Talukdar on Thursday pronounced the judgement in a batch of petitions alleging Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s inaction over the brutal acts of violence unleashed by members of ruling Trinamool Congress in the aftermath of assembly elections.
In its scathing order, the Calcutta High Court ordered that the High Court will monitor the CBI investigation into the post-poll violence in the state.
“The Committee, NHRC, any other Commission or Authority, and the State shall immediately hand over entire record of the cases entrusted to the CBI for investigation. It is made clear that it shall be a Court-monitored investigation. Any obstruction in the course of investigation by anyone shall be viewed seriously”, the Calcutta High Court observed.
Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal delivered the lead judgment, whereas Justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon and Soumen Sen delivered separate but concurring judgments.
High Court constitutes SIT to look into other criminal cases related to post-poll violence
The High Court has directed that a Special Investigation Team, under the monitoring of the Court, should investigate the other criminal cases related to post-poll violence. IPS officers Suman Bala Sahoo, Soumen Mitra and Ranbir Kumar of the West Bengal cadre have been made the members of the SIT. The working of SIT will be monitored by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, the High Court said.
The court noted that in over 60% of the cases, no FIR was filed by the police.
The Court has also ordered the West Bengal government to grant compensation for the victims of the post-poll violence immediately. In a major embarrassment to Mamata Banerjee-led government, the High Court rejected the allegations of bias against the National Human Rights Commission, a team of which had submitted a fact-finding report to the court as per its directions.
“The allegation of bias against the Committee is not material because this court has considered not only the report of the Committee but other materials as well and arguments of learned Counsel based thereon”, Justice IP Mukerji observed in his judgment.
The Court has also directed the state government to hand over the autopsy report of Avijit Sarkar, a BJP worker who got killed in the post-poll violence and other sealed cover documents to the CBI. The Calcutta High Court has asked the CBI and the SIT to submit status reports to the court within six weeks. A division bench will again consider the matter on October 24.
High Court directs for independent investigation in the post-poll violence cases
In his lead judgment, Justice Bindal observed that the fact-finding report of the NHRC committee had exposed the police inaction, and hence the matter required independent investigation.
The High Court noted that the registration of cases and investigation against the workers of the ruling TMC was slow, and in a number of cases, FIRs were registered only after the committee pointed out those.
“There are some FIRs registered against the supporters/workers of political parties who are not in power. These are claimed by them as false cross cases. Even they will not be able to allege bias against the State if the investigation of their cases is also held by an independent agency or monitored by SIT,” the Calcutta High Court Acting Chief Justice noted.
Further, Justice Bindal’s judgment stated, “It should and will inspire the confidence of the people in the rule of law. The allegation is of police inaction. The report submitted by the Committee throws some light on this, and the police have not properly responded to all the issues raised and trying to downplay the same, it certainly needs investigation by an independent agency. Even comparison of data pertaining to the crime during the previous corresponding period will also not come to the rescue of the State as the pattern of the crime can change and the period thereof. Further, there are definite and proven allegations that complaints filed by the victims of post-poll violence were not registered. Such types of incidents, even if isolated, are not good for a healthy democracy”.
On August 3, the Calcutta High Court had reserved judgment on a batch of petitions pertaining to the post-poll violence in West Bengal unleashed by the TMC cadre against the BJP workers.
Post poll violence in West Bengal
Post-poll violence has become a leitmotif of news emerging out of Bengal following the declaration of results. Umpteen number of violence against political opponents have been reported from the state. In an overwhelming number of such incidents, the victims have been BJP supporters and workers, while the accused were said to be the supporters of the TMC party. More than a dozen BJP workers have lost their lives in the post-poll violence that ensued following the victory of the TMC party in the assembly elections.
The violence unleashed against them forced hundreds of BJP party workers and supporters to flee their villages along with their families. They had crossed over to Assam, where they had been provided temporary shelter under the supervision of minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. However, it is not just the BJP but even CPI(M), which has accused the TMC of killing its workers. Reports of attacks on BSF jawans have also emerged in the media.
On June 2, 2021, a month after Mamata Banerjee came back to power, the BJP said 37 of its workers were killed in the post-poll violence that convulsed the state. In addition, some reports said women in West Bengal were raped, assaulted and, in some cases, even killed just because they adhered to a different political ideology.
Recently, a victim raped by the TMC goons in front of her father had shared her harrowing ordeal with OpIndia. She narrated how she was attacked and sexually assaulted by her perpetrators associated with the TMC party.
In the aftermath of the assembly election results, TMC goons wreaked havoc, attacking and plundering the houses of their opponents. In one such attack, TMC goons had lynched BJP worker Avijit Sarkar to death.