Calcutta HC stays case against Cong leader accused of insulting Mamata Banerjee
Lawyer and West Bengal Congress spokesperson Koustav Bagchi was arrested from his residence in North 24 Parganas district
KOLKATA: The Calcutta high court on Wednesday stayed all criminal proceedings against West Bengal Congress spokesperson Koustav Bagchi in connection with his controversial remarks against chief minister Mamata Banerjee till the next hearing and sought a report from the Kolkata police on the case.
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha passed the interim stay order on Wednesday and sought a report from the Kolkata police commissioner.
Bagchi was arrested on March 4 and released on bail by Kolkata’s Bankshall court within hours of the midnight raid at his residence in the Barrackpore area of North 24 Parganas district by Kolkata’s Burtolla police station.
He was booked under sections 120b (criminal conspiracy), 153 (provocation to cause riot), 354a (sexual harassment), 504 (intentional insult), 505 (statements causing public mischief), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Burtolla police cited a March 3 press conference where Bagchi read out excerpts from a book by Dipak Ghosh, a former bureaucrat. Ghosh, once a trusted aide of Mamata Banerjee, had written about certain aspects of Banerjee’s personal life. The book has not been banned and its soft copies are available online. The FIR was filed on a complaint by a Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporter.
After the hearing, Bagchi said: “The court ordered an interim stay on all criminal proceedings. It said no coercive action can be taken against me without the court’s consent. I am happy. I am confident that the proceedings against me will be ultimately quashed during future hearings.”
In his petition, Bagchi challenged the criminal charges and the manner in which the police came to his house at midnight without any notice.
Justice Mantha also took into consideration Bagchi’s recent appeal to the state police for security.
Bagchi said: “The court ordered the state to set up a five-man police picket outside my home and deploy an armed policeman to accompany me wherever I go. The court also made the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) a party in this case and wanted to know if it can provide the security cover. The CRPF has been asked to appear in court on Monday.”
Bagchi was arrested two days after the TMC lost the Sagardighi assembly by-election in Murshidabad district to the Congress candidate who was supported by the Left parties, winning a seat that had been with the TMC for 13 years.
Soon after, the chief minister launched a bitter attack targeting state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. The Congress leader ignored the dart, but party spokesperson Bagchi retaliated, referring to portions from Dipak Ghosh’s book.
“Koustav’s arrest shows how TMC is using the police to carry out political vendetta. Only the judiciary can save citizens from autocratic rulers,” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, welcoming the reprieve from the high court.
TMC Rajya Sabha member Shantanu Sen maintained that the administration did nothing wrong by arresting Bagchi.
“I do not want to comment on the court order but this is the not first time this judge has offered immunity from arrest to a person,” Sen said, referring to justice Mantha’s decision on December 8 last year to stay proceedings against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Suvendu Adhikari. The order also said no fresh first information report (FIR) can be lodged against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader without the court’s permission.
Adhikari’s said in his petition that 26 FIRs were filed against him on frivolous charges to cause harassment and asked that either the cases be quashed or be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).