58% of accused named in post-poll violence cases held, Bengal tells SC

In its written submission submitted before a bench led by justice Vineet Saran, the state government attacked NHRC
Bengal post-poll violence (ANI)
Bengal post-poll violence (ANI)
Updated on Sep 21, 2021 12:12 AM IST
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By Utkarsh Anand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The West Bengal government has informed the Supreme Court that it arrested around 58% of the total accused named in connection to the post-poll violence cases, while claiming that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) acted with bias in alleging that only a handful of arrests were made.

In its written submission submitted before a bench led by justice Vineet Saran, the state government attacked NHRC, stating that the report submitted by the commission’s panel before the Calcutta high court made “incorrect and misleading statements” in observing that merely 3% arrests were made in the total cases.

“With respect to 1,429 cases initiated by (West Bengal police), it will show that there are total 8,852 accused. Number of arrests/ persons surrendered/ enlarged on bail is 5,154. Notices served under Section 41A CrPC are 2,989. Hence, the percentages of arrests/ persons surrendered/ enlarged on bail comes to approximately 58% and not less than 3% as contended by the committee,” stated the note.

Notices under Section 41 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) are issued in cases where reasonable information exists about involvement of a person in a cognisable offence.

The state has submitted its note in its appeal against August 19 order of a five-judge bench of the Calcutta high court transferring probe to the Central Bureau of Information (CBI) into murder and rape cases in the state following declaration of assembly election results on May 2 this year.

Among other things, the high court also relied on data submitted to it by the NHRC-appointed committee in ordering the probe by CBI into allegations of serious offences such as rape and murder while minor incidents of violence were directed to be inquired into by a special investigation team (SIT). The SIT was set up by the state government on September 2.

The matter came up for hearing before the top court on Monday but it was adjourned to September 28 for detailed arguments. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the state government. Senior counsel Harish Salve, Mahesh Jethmalani, advocates Priyanka Tibrewal, J Sai Deepak and Suvidutt MS appeared for some of the petitioners before the Calcutta high court. Tibrewal, who will contest against West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the by-election to the Bhabanipur seat on September 30, is also a petitioner in the case.

Meanwhile, the state government told the court that the police has so far examined 2,877 complaints relating to post-poll violence. Out of this, the note added, 1,356 complaints have been found to be not true while FIRs have been lodged in 651 cases and 405 non-cognisable reports have been submitted in trial courts.

The state pointed out that the law-and-order machinery, including both Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and the state police, were under the superintendence of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) remained in force till May 3, and hence, ECI was responsible for the law-and-order situation till May 3.

“The special bench (of the Calcutta high court) had ignored the established fact that the law-and-order situation in the state was effectively brought under control by the proactive and timely intervention of the state authorities, especially post May 5, after the Hon’ble chief minister of the state (Mamata Banerjee) was sworn-in and the law-and-order machinery of the state was revamped by replacing the DGP and other supervisory officers including the ADG (law and order), SPs and Police Commissioners, who were appointed by the ECI,” emphasised the note.

Referring to the seven-member committee constituted by NHRC to gather facts about the post-poll violence incidents, the state government contended that the panel comprised at least three persons who are currently associated with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). The state named committee members Rajiv Jain, Atif Rasheed and Rajulben Desai as having links to the BJP, adding their inclusion gave rise to reasonable likelihood of bias and vitiated the independence of the entire committee.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021