Supreme Court refuses to entertain PIL seeking court-monitored probe into Sandeshkhali violence

"We understand your eagerness and sympathy for the victims but monitoring of an investigation by this court is completely different," a bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih said

Updated - February 19, 2024 05:35 pm IST

Published - February 19, 2024 05:05 pm IST - New Delhi

Women participate in a protest against TMC leader Shahjahan in North 24 Parganas on February 9, 2024

Women participate in a protest against TMC leader Shahjahan in North 24 Parganas on February 9, 2024 | Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court refused to entertain a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI or SIT probe into the violence in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali village on February 19.

A bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih said the Calcutta High Court is already seized of the matter. "The local High Court will be the best to assess the situation. Let there be no dual forums," the bench said while granting liberty to the PIL petitioner to approach the High Court.

As the hearing began, petitioner-lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava said disturbing incidents have come to light where several women have claimed they have been raped.

The top court said one of the judges of the Calcutta HC has also taken cognisance of the alleged incidents. It can consider transferring the case to the CBI, the bench said.

The petitioner said the situation in the State is so bad that even the CBI has to approach the SC to seek trial of post-poll violence cases outside West Bengal. "We understand your eagerness and sympathy for the victims but monitoring of an investigation by this court is completely different," the bench said.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the West Bengal government, submitted the Calcutta HC has taken cognisance of the alleged incidents and some arrests have also been made.

When Mr. Srivastava referred to the top court having formed a committee of three former women high court judges to oversee the investigation, relief and remedial measures in Manipur, where also women were sexually assaulted, the bench said, "Don't compare Manipur with this. Don't make different cases comparable."

As the bench was disinclined to entertain the matter, Mr. Srivastava withdrew the PIL. The matter was dismissed as withdrawn.

"The petitioner who has appeared in person, after arguing the matter for some time, sought permission to withdraw this petition filed under Article 32, with liberty to seek reliefs before the Calcutta High Court. Consequently, this writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn while granting liberty to the petitioner to seek appropriate relief before the Calcutta High Court," the bench said in its order.

The plea

The plea filed by Mr. Srivastava in his personal capacity, sought compensation for the victims of the Sandeshkhali violence and action against officials of the West Bengal Police for alleged dereliction of duty.

The plea also sought transfer of the probe and subsequent trial outside West Bengal, besides an inquiry by a three-judge committee as done in Manipur.

Sandeshkhali, a village in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, has been witnessing violent protests over allegations of sexual abuse of women by a local TMC leader and his supporters.

Several women have accused local Trinamool Congress strongman Shahjahan Sheikh and his supporters of land grab and sexual assault.

Mr. Sheikh has been absconding ever since a mob, allegedly linked to him, attacked Enforcement Directorate officials who had gone to search his premises in connection with a corruption case.

Earlier in the day, the apex court stayed the notices issued by the privileges committee of the Lok Sabha to the West Bengal Chief Secretary, DGP and others over a complaint of "misconduct" filed against them by BJP MP Sukanta Majumdar.

Also read: SC stays LS privileges panel proceedings summoning West Bengal Chief Secretary, others for ‘injuring’ BJP MP

Majumdar was hospitalised last week following a clash between BJP workers and police after being stopped from going to violence-hit Sandeshkhali.

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