Bengal withdraws criminal cases against TMC’s ally, Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung
- The process of withdrawal of the cases against him, his supporters and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri has started, said lawyers in Darjeeling.
The West Bengal government has started withdrawing criminal cases slapped against Bimal Gurung, president of one of the two factions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and hundreds of his followers who took part in the 2017 Gorkhaland movement that witnessed violence.
Charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Gurung appeared in public last year after remaining underground for three years and offered to support chief minister Mamata Banerjee and help her win the assembly seats in Darjeeling and other parts of north Bengal. He has already been provided security cover by the state.
Binoy Tamang, Gurung’s rival and leader of the GJM’s other faction, is an ally of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) since 2017. Tamang, however, is opposed to Gurung’s re-entry in hill politics.
Gurung earlier supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and helped it win the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat thrice since 2009. After resurfacing in Kolkata on October 21 last year he took a U-turn and accused the BJP of betraying the Gorkhas.
The process of withdrawal of the cases against him, his supporters and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri has started, said lawyers in Darjeeling.
A senior lawyer, who did not want to be named, said, “It is not Gurung alone who is being spared. Cases slapped against Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa, general secretary of the other faction, too are being withdrawn as well.”
Thapa is chairman of the board of administrators of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
Pranoy Rai, public prosecutor at the Darjeeling district court, said around 80 cases have already been withdrawn.
“More than 156 cases were pending against Gurung. The state law department had asked for my opinion. I gave my views and an application was sent to the governor which is legally required. Around 80 cases have already been withdrawn,” said Rai.
Under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC), a public prosecutor in charge of a case may, with consent of a court, withdraw the case before the judgment is passed.
The process of withdrawal of cases has also started at other courts in Kurseong, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar. The last submission for withdrawal of all pending cases is likely to be made on Monday, lawyers aware of the developments said.
A legal expert, who did not want to be named, said that under section 321 the accused first makes a submission before the state, seeking withdrawal of charges. The executive order is subsequently issued by the law department and public prosecutors file petition before the court.
Lawyers representing Gurung, Giri, Tamang and Thapa said most of the cases slapped against them are political in nature and hence their withdrawal will not be a difficult process.
As far as the UAPA cases are concerned, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition from Gurung last year, ordered a stay on all investigations under scheduled offences of the National Investigation Agency Act including UAPA. The interim order passed by the Supreme Court is still in force. “No action should be taken until further orders on it are passed,” said Rai.
Roshan Giri said, “We do not know anything about this since nothing has been communicated to us officially.”
BJP state vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said, “Mamata Banerjee is taking desperate measures to win the elections but nothing can change the outcome of the coming polls. People have made up their minds.”
Asok Bhattacharya, senior CPI (M) leader and legislator from Siliguri, said “Mamata Banerjee, who framed the charges, has now decided to withdraw them since Gurung is campaigning for the TMC.”
Gautam Deb, senior TMC leader from north Bengal and tourism minister, said, “I will not comment on this matter.”
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