Govt failed to properly probe post-poll violence complaints: Calcutta HC

ByHT Correspondent
Jul 22, 2021 02:52 PM IST

The violence allegedly broke out hours after the TMC returned to power for a third time in May. The BJP, which hoped to wrest power from TMC, has blamed the ruling party for the violence

The West Bengal government has failed to properly investigate complaints of alleged violence after the May-April assembly elections, the Calcutta high court observed on Thursday.

The Calcutta high court. (HT file)
The Calcutta high court. (HT file)

“The proceedings have become adversarial because the state has failed to properly investigate,” a five-judge bench said while hearing public interest litigations related to the violence.

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The violence allegedly broke out hours after the Trinamool Congress (TMC) returned to power for a third time in May. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which hoped to wrest power from TMC, has blamed the ruling party for the violence.

The TMC has insisted incidents of violence were reported when the law and order was under the Election Commission’s jurisdiction and that Banerjee dealt with them effectively after taking over.

The court’s comments came days after a panel of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) set up following a high court order in June to look into violence blamed the state government for it. In a 50-page report submitted to the court last week, the panel slammed the state government saying the violence “shows a pernicious politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus”. It recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the violence and that the trials related to it be conducted outside the state.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the West Bengal government, dismissed the report. “It is nothing but a politically motivated report. We do not give credence to the NHRC report,” he told the court.

Mahesh Jethmalani, who appeared for the petitioners, said the state whose inaction has triggered the entire litigation wants to now investigate on its own. He called for a probe by an independent agency. “The state has been complicit in many instances.”

The court directed the government to file its reply on the NHRC report by July 26. The matter would be heard again on July 28.

The NHRC report said at least 1,934 police complaints were lodged in the state between May 2 and June 20. They included 29 complaints related to murder, 12 to rape and sexual assault, and 940 to loot and arson. It added out of the 9,304 people named as accused, less than 3% are currently in jail. “The situation in the state of West Bengal is a manifestation of the law of ruler, instead of rule of law...This was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party.”

Banerjee dismissed the report last week, calling it misleading with distorted facts. “How many commissions and central agencies did the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) send to (BJP-ruled) Uttar Pradesh?”

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