The Mamata Banerjee government suffered another setback by the state’s highest judiciary. The Calcutta high court on Wednesday stayed criminal proceedings against Tamalika Panda Seth, wife of former CPI(M) MP and chairperson of Haldia municipality Lakshman Seth, who was accused of illegally encroaching upon 9.68 acres of land belonging to the Haldia development authority (HDA).
Justice Dipankar Datta passed the interim order on the petition filed by Tamalika Seth through advocate Bikash Bhattacharya, challenging the FIR registered by Bhabanipur police station on July 23, on the basis of a complaint filed by the chief executive officer of the HDA.
The judge also directed the HDA and the state to file their affidavits within three weeks in response to the petition for a hearing on merits five weeks from now.
Police have started a case under section 420, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, 447, criminal trespass, 468, forgery for the purpose of cheating, and 471, using a forged document of electronic record as genuine.
Challenging this, Bhattacharya told the court that even if the allegations made in the complaint were true, no case was made out under the sections registered in the FIR.
Attacking the complaint, he said that is was based on the suppression of the fact that HDA had leased the land, which comprised a pond, to the municipality in 1994 for ten years, and in 2004 it was further extended till 2099 for beautification. “Therefore there is no question of illegal encroachment or illegal trespass. A case had been registered against Seth to harass her,” Bhattacharya said.
Countering this, HDA advocates Jaideep Kar and Kishore Datta told the court that the land was entrusted to the municipality, who had, in turn, leased out the land to a private firm by adopting fraudulent means, violating the ownership rights of HDA. “As per the document submitted by Siraj Khan fisheries, an open tender was invited by chairperson of Haldia municipality for selecting a private firm to operate on HDA land. A 30-year lease deed with the private firm had also been signed by the chairperson of the municipality,” said Kar.