In a major setback for the West Bengal government, the Calcutta High Court on Friday ruled that the police firing in Nandigram on March 14 was wholly unconstitutional and could not be justified under any provision of the law.
The police and CPI(M) cadres had fired indiscriminately at villagers protesting against the state government’s attempt to acquire their lands to set up a special economic zone in Nandigram. At least 14 people were shot down, 162 persons injured and 33 women filed complaints of rape.
Taking serious note of media reports on the Nandigram massacre on March 15, the judges had directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry and submit a report.
Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice P.C. Ghose directed the CBI on Friday to register criminal cases against the guilty and submit a report to the court within a month. “The report should set out the crimes committed, the victims and offenders identified, proceedings initiated against the individuals or officers,” the judges ordered.
Rejecting all the arguments of the state advocate-general Balai Ray, the judges said: “The court was justified in taking suo motu cognisance of the wholly indefensible incident of police firing at Nandigram on the basis of media reports and the statement of Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi as reported in the Hindustan Times.”
Allowing a batch of PILs filed by the Association of People’s Democratic Rights, the High Court Bar Association and others seeking a CBI probe into the killings, the judges said: “This court would have the power under Article 26 of the Constitution to order a CBI investigation in any particular case. Even otherwise, in this case the consent had been given by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in his statement made in the state assembly on March 15.”
The judges also ruled that in view of the acts of omission and commission on the part of the state government and its failure to protect the people of Nandigram on March 14, the victims were entitled to compensation. “We direct the state to pay immediate compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of each deceased, Rs 2 lakh to each rape victim, and Rs 1 lakh to each injured within one month.”
The state advocate-general said the state would appeal to the Supreme Court. State home secretary P.R. Roy said he would consult the legal adviser after receiving a copy of the judgment.