Rejecting the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID’s) petition for further police remand for Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), a Jhagram court on Saturday sent him to judicial custody till October 23. The bail petition moved by defence was also rejected in the process.
Arrested on September 26 near Lalgarh in Paschim Medinipur district, Mr. Mahato has already spent 15 days in police custody in three terms.
The public prosecutors argued that Mr. Mahato needed to be remanded to police custody for another 15 days, as continued interrogation revealed more information on his links with Maoists, their extortion network in neighbouring States, as well as the channels through, which PSBJC members procured arms and ammunition.
But citing insufficient progress in the investigation since the last police remand, the additional chief judicial magistrate remanded Mr. Mahato to judicial custody.
The same court earlier expressed doubts about the feasibility of applying the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Mr. Mahato.
Defence counsel had been arguing that the UAPA was not applicable for, neither the PSBJC had been declared a terrorist organisation nor did the State government notify the implementation of the Act. The public prosecutor countered, saying the government need not publish notification prior to the implementation of an Act already notified by the Centre.
According to sources in the CID, further interrogation of Mr. Mahato could have revealed more information about the PSBJC’s extortion network in neighbouring States as well as its source of arms and ammunitions.
Would the police move a higher court seeking further police remand for him? Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh told The Hindu that no decision had as yet been taken.
Meanwhile, a section of the city-based intelligentsia organised a rally here protesting the arrest of Mr. Mahato and others and the slapping of the UAPA on them.
However, the absence of almost all the intellectuals who visited Mr. Mahato at Lalgarh on June 21 and pledged support to the tribal cause was conspicuous at the rally.