NHRC to probe post-poll violence plaints as HC rejects Bengal plea
The Calcutta high court on Monday dismissed a petition by the West Bengal government seeking recall of an order directing the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to probe complaints of post-poll violence in the state, observing that the state administration’s progress on the issue didn’t inspire confidence.
While listening to public interest litigations on post-poll violence on Friday, a five-member high court bench had ordered NHRC to set up a panel to probe allegations of displacement, physical assault, destruction of property and ransacking of offices. On Saturday, the state government filed a review petition and also asked for the order to be stayed.
But the bench, headed by acting chief justice Rajesh Bindal, refused to recall the order.”The way the state was proceeding in the matter, which required immediate action, did not inspire confidence,” observed the bench, also comprising justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar.
Also read | Centre initiates disciplinary proceedings against Alapan Bandyopadhyay
Hours after the order, NHRC set up a seven-member panel to look into complaints of post poll violence. The committee will be led by Rajiv Jain, the former Intelligence Bureau chief who assumed charge as NHRC member on June 2, a statement by the human rights body said.
The panel will examine all complaints of post-poll violence received by NHRC, Bengal state legal services authority, visit affected areas and submit a report to the high court on present situation and steps to be taken to restore confidence.
“The committee shall also point out the persons, prima-facie, responsible for crime and the officers who maintained calculated silence on the issue,” said the statement.
In court, the bench heard out the state government but wasn't convinced. The bench, which told the state government that it could give its action-taken report on the complaints received by the NHRC, made a pointed reference to complaints of police inaction and observed that the conduct of the state did not inspire confidence of the court.
The court also pointed out how the NHRC had received 541 complaints in contrast to the state’s human rights commission, which hasn’t received a single one. “After hearing learned counsels for the parties, we do not find any case is made out for recalling, modification or stay of the order passed by this court on June 18, 2021,” the five-judge bench said.
The NHRC committee headed by Rajiv Jain also comprises National Commission for Minorities vice chairman Atif Rasheed, National Commission for Women member Rajulben L Desai, NHRC’s (director) investigation Santosh Mehra and DIG (investigation) Manzil Saini, West Bengal Human Rights Commission registrar Pradip Kumar Panja and the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority Member Secretary Raju Mukherjee.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which mounted a campaign against the Mamata Banerjee government over the violence that allegedly targeted supporters of opposition parties after the May 2 verdict, called Monday’s ruling a “tight slap”.
“Rape, murder, arson, every heinous crime took place and the state government denied it. Bengal’s politics of violence is established today. This is a tight slap on the face of the @MamataOfficial and the @AITCofficial govt,” tweeted Ritesh Tiwari, BJP state vice-president.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh refused to comment on the ruling. “The BJP is making up stories to create disturbance because it could not win the elections,” he said.
In proceedings before the high court and the Supreme Court – the top court is hearing a plea for compensation for the victims - the Bengal government has insisted that the government was able to control the violence that broke out before Banerjee was sworn-in on May 5. Victims of the post-poll violence, however, told the top court last week that they were still facing a “hostile attitude”.