SC seeks Centre's reply on WB's plea against Culcutta HC order for CBI probe into post-poll violence

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Representative image
Representative image

New Delhi [India], September 28 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the Centre and others on a plea of the West Bengal government challenging Culcutta High Court order directing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into violence case of murder and rape following the Assembly election in West Bengal.

A Bench headed by Justice Vineet Saran sought response from the Central government, and original petitioners before the High Court and issued notices to them. The Bench posted the matter for hearing on October 27.

"On the face of it, we think you have made out a case for issuance of notice. We will give respondents a short time to file a counter," the Bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal after hearing his arguments on behalf of the West Bengal government.

During the hearing, Sibal said that there cannot be en masse transfer of cases to CBI. Before ordering a CBI investigation, there has to be a finding of failure on part of local police on a case-to-case basis, he added.

Sibal requested the Bench that it should order that CBI investigation should be subject to the outcome of West Bengal's appeal in the apex court and also that CBI should not register fresh cases and issue summons to police officers.

The top court did not pass any order in this regard and said it would look into all the issues on October 7.

Sibal said that in normal circumstances, whenever there is an allegation that an investigation is not being carried independently, the court takes the facts into consideration and then transfers the case to CBI.

The High Court order is contrary to the principles of natural justice, as the State was not given adequate opportunity to respond, Sibal further argued, adding that the State was asked to respond to thousands of complaints within 7 days.

"No investigation can be completed within 7 days. The High Court also did not consider the materials on record placed by the State," Sibal said.

Sibal also contended on how the members of the panel conducting an inquiry into post poll violence cases had an affiliation to the political party.

"Can you imagine these people have been appointed to collect the data? Is this a BJP investigating committee?," Sibal asked from the Bench.

The members are still posting posts related to BJP and how can the chairman of the Human Rights Committee appoint such members, he further asked.

The West Bengal government had approached the top court against the High Court order saying it did not expect fair and just investigation by the central agency which is busy foisting cases against the functionaries of the ruling Trinamool Congress Party.

"Past experience in the State has shown that the CBI cannot function independently and is often invoked as a tool to persecute officials of the State government, public servants, and representatives of the people in the state. An honest and impartial investigation cannot be expected from the CBI especially in the context of the State of West Bengal. It is not out of place to mention that CBI has been chastised by different High Courts across states for its evident lack of independence and has been rightly described as a "caged parrot"," the appeal said.

The CBI's "track record in filing timely charge sheet and achieving convictions is woefully poor", the West Bengal said.

Earlier, one of the petitioners in the case before the High Court, advocate Anindya Sundar Das had filed a caveat application in Supreme Court in connection with the case. A Caveat application is filed by a litigant to ensure that no adverse order is passed against him or her without being heard.

The High Court while observing that there are "definite and proved" allegations that complaints of the victims of violence in the aftermath of the West Bengal assembly polls were not even registered, ordered a CBI investigation in all alleged cases of heinous crimes like rape and murder.

For other cases involving post-poll violence, a five-judge bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal had constituted a special investigation team (SIT) of three senior IPS officers of the West Bengal cadre.

The High Court while ordering the setting up of an SIT to probe all other cases, it had said that it will include Suman Bala Sahoo, Soumen Mitra and Ranveer Kumar, all IPS officers of the West Bengal cadre.

A seven-member committee set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had earlier looked into the incidents of violence following the West Bengal assembly elections and recommended a court-monitored CBI probe.

The NHRC in its report on the alleged post-election violence in West Bengal submitted to Calcutta High Court stated that "Spatio-temporal expanse of violent incidents in the state reflects appalling apathy of the state government towards the plight of victims".

The High Court while accepting the recommendations of an NHRC panel for the CBI probe, said the Court will monitor the investigations by both the CBI and the SIT and asked the two agencies to submit status reports to the court within six weeks.

Several Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed before the High Court and urged for an investigation into the violence. The pleas cited that hundreds had been subjected to assault, made to flee their houses, and that property was destroyed in the days following the announcement of results of the Bengal polls.

Numerous violent incidents were reported after supporters of TMC and BJP allegedly clashed in various parts of the state since May 2, killing many people and triggering an alleged exodus. A four-member team deputed by the Ministry of Home Affairs had also visited the post-poll violence-affected areas.

Meanwhile, the CBI on Tuesday said that it has filed a charge-sheet against six accused, residents of Cooch Behar district in connection with one of the cases related to violence and other offences in West Bengal.

The chargesheet has been filed in the court of the additional chief judicial magistrate, Mathabhanga, Cooch Behar and a further investigation is underway. (ANI)

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