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CBI, SIT to investigate Bengal violence cases

People from West Bengal taking refuge in Dhubri district of Assam following the post-poll violence.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into all alleged cases of heinous crimes such as rape and murder in connection with alleged violence following the Assembly election in West Bengal. For other cases involving post-poll violence, the court constituted a special investigation team (SIT) of three senior IPS officers of the West Bengal cadre.

The order by a five-judge bench of the comes after deliberations by the court following allegations of post poll violence were brought before it in the form of several writ petitions. The court had urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to set up a committee to look into the allegations, and the panel submitted a report to the court on July 13 suggesting a CBI probe into the matter.

“All the cases where, as per the report of the Committee, the allegations are about murder of a person and crime against women regarding rape/attempt to rape, shall be referred to CBI for investigation. 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,” the order by the bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal said. The order made it clear that the CBI probe shall be a court-monitored investigation.

The Bench emphasised that the working of the SIT shall be “overviewed by a retired Hon’ble Judge of Hon’ble the Supreme Court, for which separate order shall be passed after taking his/her consent”. The court directed that immediate action be taken by the State to pay compensation to the victims of crime as per the policy of the State, after due verification. It also directed the CBI and the SIT to submit status reports within six weeks from Thursday.

The order was written by the Acting Chief Justice and Justices I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar gave concurring orders, some with their own views.

“In our opinion, the heinous crime such as murder and rape deserve to be investigated by an independent agency which in circumstances can only be Central Bureau of Investigation. It is for the reason that in number of cases, the State had failed to register the FIRs and opined the same to be not the cases of murder. This shows pre-determined mind to take investigation into a particular direction. Under such circumstances investigation by independent agency will inspire confidence to all concerned,” Justice Bindal wrote in the order.

While the verdict was unanimous, Justices Mukherjee and Soumen Sen expressed certain reservation over the NHRC committee recommendations. “The said Committee constituted by the National Human Rights Commission had only power under our order to report on facts as gathered by them on investigation. They had no jurisdiction to make any recommendation or to express any opinion. We did not vest them with that power,” Justice Mukherjee wrote in his order.

NHRC’s remarks

Justice Soumen Sen was also critical of the remarks made by the NHRC against politicians and police officers. “ I am of the view that such remarks and recommendations were uncalled for and to that extent the committee has transgressed its limits,” he wrote.

Acting Chief Justice Bindal had rejected the allegations of bias against the NHRC committee, pointing out: “It seems to be an argument in frustration, where on the core issue the State has been found on a wrong foot”. He also rejected the claims that it was the duty of the Election Commission of India to maintain law and order and hence responsible for any violence till May 03, 2021, when the code was lifted.

While the BJP leadership welcomed the court order, the Trinamool Congress leaders expressed their disappointment. Sources in the government hinted that it may move the Supreme Court against the order.

CBI forms team

Hours after the Calcutta High Court’s direction, the agency formed four special teams headed by senior officers to investigate the allegations, a CBI official said.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 7:56:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/calcutta-high-court-orders-cbi-sit-probes-into-bengal-post-poll-violence/article35991848.ece

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