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Pronouncing the verdict in West Bengal Post Poll Violence matter, the Calcutta High Court today held that all cases as per report of committee where allegations are murder, crimes against women to be referred to CBI for investigation.
For all other cases, a Special Investigation Team is constituted, comprising West Bengal IPS officers.
To be headed by Suman Bala Sahu and to consist of Suman Mitra and Ranvir Kumar.
The SIT will be entitled to take assistance of any agency for fair investigation and will be monitored by an SC retired judge.
The autopsy report of Abhijeet Sarkar and other sealed cover documents are to be handed over to the CBI. Any other documents to be handed over to the SIT.
The court has notably directed for the State of West Bengal to pay compensation to victims of crime.
CBI & SIT have further been directed to submit status report within 6 weeks, and the State of West Bengal has been ordered to commit cooperation with CBI and other authorities.
Detailed Transcription of order as pronounced today:
1. All the cases where as per report of the committee, the allegations are of murder of a person and crime against women, shall be referred to CBI for investigation. The Committee, NHRC and any other commission of authority shall immediately hand over entire record of cases to CBI for investigation. It is made clear that it shall be a court monitored investigation and any obstruction shall be viewed seriously.
2. All other cases as have been referred to in the Committee, an SIT is constituted. The team shall consist of IPS Officers of West Bengal Cadre, namely, Suman Bala Saho, Suman Mitra and Ranvir Kumar. It shall be entitled to take assistance of any police officer or any institution for carrying out fair investigation of the cases. It is made clear that it will be a court-monitored investigation. State shall spare their services as and when required and shall not take any adverse action against them without specific permission of court. Working of SIT shall be overviewed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court for which separate order shall be passed after taking his/her consent and terms of appointment will be decided later on.
3. Notice issued to Rashid Muneeb Khan to show cause as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him shall be dealt with later. As the issues concerning Investigation of the Post Poll Violence cases have been dealt with in terms of above, the matters shall now be referred to a division bench for dealing with other issues in the report and other proceedings.
4. TMC leader’s Partha Bhaumik and Jyoti Priya Malik’s impleadment rejected as they are neither necessary nor proper parties in the proceedings of these cases.
5. Sealed cover submitted by Committee lying with Registrar General shall be handed over to CBI with proper receipt.
6. Immediate action to be taken by state to pay compensation to victims of crime as per policy of state after verification. This shall not debar the victims from applying for compensation under any scheme of the government.
7. Direct CBI & SIT to submit Status report before court within 6 weeks from today.
8. SIT entitled to file application before Court viz. carrying out expeditious and fair investigation. Such an application shall be listed before a division bench.
9. All authorities in state and any other agency to assist the CBI & SIT to conduct fair and free investigation.
10. It is further directed that in case CBI & SIT finds any case not related to post poll violence, same shall be transferred to Police at police station concerned for further investigation and entire record to be handed over.
11. Any Observations made in this order is only for limited purpose to decide on the issue whether investigation is to be handed over to CBI and SIT, nothing observed shall be viewed as an expression on merits of the case.
The matter is adjourned for October 4, 2021.
The verdict was reserved on August 3 in the matter involving a clutch of petitions.
A 5-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice (Acting) Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justice I. P. Mukerji, Justice Harish Tandon, Justice Soumen Sen, and Justice Subrata Talukdar pronounced the judgment.
The Bench also marked that,
"The NHRC Committee was not allowed to make any recommendations," despite having an obligation of complying with directions of the Court.
Giving observations upon the obligation of the Election Commision of India (ECI) to have ensured free, fair and peaceful elections the bench said, "ECI should have played a more positive role so that crimes were not committed."
Regarding the role of the State in curtailing the violence and action thereafter, the court said, "It has not been established that the state has not taken action or that there is failure on its part. Investigation in my opinion is at an initial state."
Earlier before the Bench, the State had made brief submissions whereby Sibal had argued that the NHRC Committee members are biased. He said that the NHRC 's committee had travelled way beyond its scope to recommend that the cases should be handed over the CBI, where in fact its only job was to collate data.
Sibal had also argued that the Committee's procedures were to be governed by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1995 and that the absence of such procedural aspects was a gross violation of established legal tenets.
Advocate J Sai Deepak appearing for petitioner(s) & refuted this argument, stating that the procedure which was actually applicable to the Committee was carved out in an order of the Court itself. "Nonetheless", he argued, "technicalities could not overpower dispensation of justice".
Jethmalani had earlier argued that though the state was arguing on bias and refuted the designation of 3 members on the committee, there were in fact 7 members on board and that each member had their own team(s). On what grounds, he said could the entire Committee with many members, even from the state authorities, be questioned for their political affiliations?
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued for the DGP of police (WB) today as well. He said that there were many discrepancies in the complaints which were filed before NHRC, vehemently stating that they seemed "readymade" and "manufactured".
Sai Deepak called the argument of Singvi, addressing the Court and stating that the argument that there were no deaths in the post-poll violence that was unleashed in the state was grossly insensitive. He further argued that the cases concerning post-poll violence point to connivance of the state's machinery and basis what he argued yesterday, stated that the petitioners had no faith in the state machinery whatsoever.
The ASG also made brief submissions before Court and said that if Court were to direct an independent agency to probe into the cases, the agencies would be more than willing to take the cases up.
With this, the Court had reserved order(s) in the plea(s).
Read earlier arguments here: "1000's of complaints unregistered, systemic breakdown in state": Victims of post poll violence tell Calcutta High Court
Read an interview with a post-poll violence victim here: West Bengal post-poll violence: "Threatened, heckled by TMC goons for filing complaint with NCST": Tribal Resident from Kakragram claims
Edited by Shreya Agarwal
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