The Calcutta High Court came down heavily on the West Bengal government over the post-poll violence in the state. In the interim order issued today in a bunch of petitions regarding the violence by TMC goons against BJP and other opposition party workers, the court made scathing observations on the role of the Mamata Banerjee government. The 5-judge bench of the High Court noted that even though the administration was in denial mode, the post-poll violence was real.
The court said that responding to numerous petitions seeking probe in the violence, the High Court had requested the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to constitute a committee to examine all the cases and submit a report to this court. Accordingly, the NHRC had constituted a committee, which had probed the allegations and submitted a report on June 30.
State on denial mode, cross case registered against complainants
After going through the NHRC committee report, the High Court found that the “stand taken by the petitioners is established that there had been post-poll violence and the state was found on a wrong foot, where throughout it was on a denial mode.” The HC found that several persons were killed in the violence, many suffered sexual violence and grievous injuries, and even minor girls were not spared. Properties of many of them were damaged and number of them were forced to leave their houses and even migrate to neighbouring states, the interim order says.
The High Court sharply criticised the state govt by saying that “till date the state has not been able to create an atmosphere that could build confidence of the sufferers to return back to their homes or carry on their occupation.” The court also found that the police didn’t register any cases in the violence, and the complaints were not registered. Instead, cross cases were filed against those who had complained about violence.
The court order says, “Investigation of the cases registered was in slip shod manner and hardly any arrests were made in such heinous crimes. Some of the cases have not been registered although prima facie they disclosed commission of cognizable offence. In most of the cases accused have been bailed out.” The HC order says that some cases of heinous crimes the complaints were registered by police only after the High Court had taken cognizance of the matter.
Administration lying about no complaints about violence
The High Court made a shocking observation that the West Bengal government has making false statements that there were no complaints about violence after the assembly elections, and those were figments of imagination of opposition parties. Contrary to the claim that nobody came forward with complaints about violence, when opportunity was given to people to file complaints with the State Legal Services Authority or the NHRC, the authorities were flooded with complaints.
The Court said that the people are afraid to even disclose their identity to apprehending threat to their life and property.
More to conceal than to reveal, no help from state
The High Court order mentions that when the NHRC committee raised various queries to different authorities in the state, they failed to responds to the same. “It shows there is more to conceal than to reveal,” the court ibserved.
The HC order further adds that many of the persons injured in the violence are facing problems in their treatment, and they are not receiving any help or support from the state govt. Ration cards of many of the victims were taken away by the goons, and as a result, they are not being able to procured subsidised products from the public distribution system.
No police protection to NHRC team
The Calcutta High Court noted that despite court order, no police protection was given to the NHRC committee which was constituted on the orders of the High Court to probe the cases of post-poll violence in the state. The court said that Atif Rasheed, a member of the Committee, was obstructed from discharging his duty when he and his team members were attacked by certain goons on June 29, 2021 in Jadavpur area. “No police protection was given to them even though prior notice was given to the District Magistrate and the local police,” the court order said.
The High Court order also said that the family of Abhijit Sarkar, Vice President of Bhartiya Mazdoor Trade Union Council in district Kolkata, who was killed in the post-poll violence, is demanding a second autopsy on his body. The dead body is lying in mortuary as the family is demanding second autopsy, but the police and the administration are agreeing to it.
Orders issued by the court
After going through the NHRC Committee report, the Calcutta High Court issued the following directions to be completed:
- Police directed to register all case that are reported to them or the NHRC or any other authority. Police have been ordered to get the statements of the victims recorded under section 164 CrPC immediately, as per law.
- The state government has been ordered to make all arrangements for medical treatment of those who were injured in the post-poll violence.
- Govt ordered to supply ration to all, even if they have lost ration cards.
- Whenever the NHRC committee called for any information from any authority, it will have to provided immediately, failing to do so may call for adverse inference.
- The High Court ordered that a second autopsy of Abhijeet Sarkar will have to be conducted, and the same will be done by a team of doctors selected by the head of the Command Hospital in Kolkata. This is the Command Hospital of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, which means that the second autopsy will be done by doctors from the military hospital. The selection of an army hospital signifies that the court has no trust in state govt run hospitals.
- The court issued a show cause notice to South Kolkata DCP asking why proceedings for contempt be not initiated against him for violation of the order passed by the court on June 18, 2021.
- All the central agencies and service providers of various services to assist the committee and provide the requisite information wherever required, to the extent permissible in law.
- The High Court also ordered the Chief Secretary of West Bengal to preserve all correspondence of the Special Branch/ Intelligence Branch of the State Police, and the Logs of different police control rooms.
The Calcutta High Court accepted the request of the NHRC appointed committee to grant more time to carry out investigation. The court said that it is not making the interim report of the committee public at this moment because the matter is still being probed by the committee and only an interim report has been submitted. The copies of the interim report have been kept in a sealed cover with the Registrar General of the Court.
The five judges of the bench are, acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and justices I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen, and Subrata Talukdar.