Supreme Court to hear PIL seeking probe into ‘atrocities’ by BSF in West Bengal
The PIL also challenged constitutional validity of two sections of the BSF Act.
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a plea seeking a probe into the alleged torture and extra-judicial killings by the BSF in frontier areas of West Bengal where it is accused of being trigger-happy.
The public interest litigation (PIL) also challenged the constitutional validity of the law that grants the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel immunity against being tried in a regular court for any excesses.
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar admitted the petition filed by a Kolkatta-based human rights organization, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha.
The court will now go for a detailed hearing to determine the validity of Sections 46 and 47 of the BSF Act, whose validity the NGO has challenged. However, no formal date has been fixed for the next hearing.
The frontier force drew widespread condemnation when picture of the bullet-ridden body of Bangladeshi girl Felani Khatun dangling from a barbed-wire fence along Indo-Bangladesh border went viral in 2011.
Following public outrage the BSF filed a case against one of its constables Amiya Ghosh accusing him for culpable homicide. Ghosh was acquitted by a BSF court in 2015. Rights organisations in West Bengal and Bangladesh raised question over the acquittal.
Suraksha Mancha said the two provisions of the BSF law compel victims of the BSF atrocities to approach only the court of the security force for justice.
Counsel Bijon Ghosh appearing for the NGO told the court that the BSF courts were “manned by relatively junior officers” and victims were not provided with any legal aid or rights.
More than 200 cases of BSF personnel indulged in extra-judicial killings or torture have come to notice, the NGO alleged, adding they have never been probed by the state police.
“The present case will show the procedure followed by the West Bengal police made a mockery of the rule of law,” read the petition that pointed out cases of alleged torture by the BSF between 2005 and 2011.
In over 100 cases, there are eye witnesses to the torture in BSF custody leading to the death of captives, the petition said.
In 2014, the apex court had sought the Centre’s response in the petition which was filed in 2012. After more than three years the matter came up for hearing on Friday.
A bench also comprising justice DY Chandrachud and justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, after briefly hearing Ghosh’s submission, said it was admitting the petition.
The petition alleged that the state police, instead of registering FIRs against the BSF personnel, file it against the deceased.
As a result not a single out of more than 200 cases of torture and killings listed in the petition has been investigated by the police, it claimed.
“Thus the BSF operates above the law, their mechanical explanations as to how death came about is accepted as true in all cases, the statements of the eye witnesses are not recorded since no investigation is done and the cases are closed,” the petition alleged.