The Calcutta High Court has ordered a CBI probe into alleged grievous cases such as murder and rape in the WB post-poll violence.
The Calcutta High Court has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into all post-poll violence such as murder and rape in West Bengal. A five-judge bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal also ordered the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe all other offences related to the post-poll violence, the state witnessed in May,2021 after Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress won the elections.
“All cases as per the report of NHRC committee where allegations are about murder of person or crime against women regarding rape or attempt to rape shall be referred to CBI for investigation,” the high court said. The court ordered the state to hand over all records of cases to the CBI and extend total cooperation to CBI so that it can carry out the investigation. The bench said both the investigations will be monitored by the court.
The SIT will consist of police officers from West Bengal. The court has directed the CBI to submit its reports in six weeks. The matter will be heard again on 4 October, 2021. The working of SIT will be overviewed by a retired judge of Supreme Court on which a separate order will be passed later after taking the consent of the concerned judge.
After the Trinamool Congress’ return to power on 2 May, the state witnessed widespread post-poll violence that includes looting, murder and rape. It was alleged that the Trinamool Congress cadres targeted those who were against the ruling party and also Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and unleashed violence across the state on May 4, 2021. The attacks also resulted in the displacement of thousands of people from their homes.
Following which a number of petitioners had moved the Calcutta high court earlier this year. The court directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to form a committee to probe the various complaints of post-poll violence in West Bengal. Accordingly the committee visited various affected places of West Bengal and also met the alleged victims. Finally, the panel indicted the Mamata Banerjee-led government and called for the investigation to be handed over to the CBI.
In its fifty-page report, the NHRC said: "This was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party". In its report, the NHRC had noted that the situation in West Bengal was a manifestation of "law of the ruler" and not "rule of law", and hence recommended a CBI probe into the cases related to rape and murder of individuals. The committee has also recommended that grievous offences like murder, rape, etc should be handed over to the CBI for investigation and these cases should be tried outside the state.
The NHRC also recommended that the other cases should be investigated by a court-monitored SIT along with other measures such as ex-gratia payment, rehabilitation, protection of women and actions against government servants who did not act on complaints filed by victims of violence.
Arguing on behalf of the Trinamool, Kapil Sibal argued that the NHRC's report was "politically motivated" and that some members of the fact-finding committee had links to the BJP. Sibal had urged the HC to reject the NHRC report as the NHRC panel was "fraught with bias against the ruling dispensation". The Calcutta High Court bench ruled that the allegations of bias against the NHRC panel "hold no merit" and rejected the Bengal government's arguments. Moreover, the very idea of a NHRC committee was mooted by the Calcutta Hugh Court only and not by the BJP or the central government.
Ever since the large scale violence was reported after the assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee and her party leaders have been strongly denying all the allegations of violence. Both the West Bengal government and the TMC leaders have repeatedly maintained that the state has not witnessed any violence and also no attack was carried out on the BJP workers. The state police had also dismissed the widespread allegations of violence against BJP workers and supporters.
But, the Calcutta High Court took cognisance of the complaints and ordered a CBI probe by the NHRC. The fact that the Calcutta High Court has ordered a CBI probe in to the post-poll violence, has not gone down well with the Mamata Banerjee government."I’m unhappy with the verdict. If in every law and order matter, which is entirely within state government’s jurisdiction, the CBI comes in, it is a transgression on state’s right. I’m sure state government will judge the situation & take a decision to appeal to a higher court if necessary,” said TMC MP Saugata Roy. But as expected the BJP leaders welcomed the verdict. Union minister Anurag Thakur welcomed the verdict and said, "In a democracy, everyone has the right to spread their ideology but no one's allowed to spread violence. There is no place for violence in democracy."
Indeed, The Calcutta High Court’s order is a massive setback for the Mamata Banerjee, especially at a time when she is positioning herself as the next alternative to Prime Minister Modi. Mamata Banerjee has been rallying the entire opposition against the ruling BJP at the centre. It is also true that after her major victory in West Bengal, she is being regarded as the fulcrum of Opposition unity. The NHRC report not only revealed the dark side of her governance but also shattered her image as a symbol of inclusivity and tolerance. She has lost her moral high ground as innocent and gullible people have been subjected to torture. It is clear that she failed to protect her own people.
Had such large scale violence happened in any of the BJP ruled states, the opposition would have joined hands lectured about gross human rights violation and demanded removal of the government. But entire opposition is keeping mum that includes Congress. Rahul Gandhi who recently batted for the justice for the killing of the nine-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped, murdered and forcibly cremated in Delhi, absolutely keeps mum on the West Bengal post-poll violence. On the other hand, the Mamata Banerjee government is likely to move the Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court order.