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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Justice may yet be denied! SC admits WB govt. petition against CBI probe

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre and others on a plea by the West Bengal government challenging the Calcutta High Court decision to order a CBI probe into cases of murder and crimes against women, which took place during post-poll violence in the state.

However, the top court declined to pass any directions to the CBI to not lodge any more FIRs in the matter. After hearing detailed arguments by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the West Bengal government, a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose said: “You have made out the case for issuance of the notice. Let us see. We will give a short time for respondents to file counter.”

As Sibal urged the bench to pass a direction to CBI to not register any more cases in the matter, the bench replied: “It is only a week, nothing will happen.” On his submission that the CBI is issuing notice to police officers in the cases, Justice Saran said: “You have argued about natural justice, we should not pass any order without hearing the other side.”

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on October 7.

After the hearing concluded, Sibal sought an observation from the bench that the CBI probe into the matter will be subject to the outcome of the case in the top court. The bench replied: “It is understood so even without passing a specific order… We don’t need to say that.”

The Mamata Banerjee-led state government has challenged the high court order in the top court.

A five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI investigation into all the cases of heinous crimes in the state after the poll results, after accepting the recommendations of an NHRC panel. For other criminal cases connected with post-poll violence, the high court had directed court-monitored investigation by a Special Investigation Team.

On September 20, the West Bengal government had told the Supreme Court that “shocking things” have happened in the state and cases, which included dacoity, were being transferred “en masse” to the CBI. “In one case, the man is alive..CBI is also investigating dacoity cases. All kinds of things are happening,” Sibal submitted.

The state government’s plea had argued that NHRC committee report was prepared in ‘great haste’, “with a pre-conceived and motivated objective and most crucially, in utter disregard of the principles of natural justice, the established principles of criminal jurisprudence”. It further added that direction transferring cases to the CBI and the SIT was not in accordance with the principles laid down by the top court, as such transfers must be done in rare or exceptional cases only.

It is hard to fathom what needs to happen in West Bengal to qualify as ‘rare or exceptional’ in Mamata Banerjee’s and Kapil Sibal’s book. Here is a sample of the gang-rapes that have taken place, and the police response to those –

  • A 60-year-old woman in Purba Medinipur was tied to a cot and gangraped in front of her six-year-old grandson. When her son-in-law went to the police to lodge an FIR, the police refused to entertain.
  • A minor girl from an SC (Dalit) community was dragged into the jungle, gangraped and left to die. A local TMC leader Sheikh Bahadur came to her family’s house the next day threatening them not to file a complaint. Police later pressurized her parents to withdraw the case saying they should worry about their other daughter.
  • A Hindu girl was gang-raped by 7 TMC goons led by one Mamun Sheikh in front of her father. The goons barged into the house saying, “We want Hindu girls, we want your daughter.” The girl and her father have been facing harassment from WB police and threats from random numbers ever since they narrated their ordeal to NHRC. The victim now wears a burqa while stepping out of home, as do other Hindu girls in the vicinity.

In one case, the mother of a murdered BJP worker said the attackers had threatened “they would finish Hinduism.”

This is what the NHRC had to say in its report:

To compound the problem, violence and intimidation has continued. There is palpable fear among victims against Police and goons of the ruling party. Many displaced persons have not yet been able to return to their homes and resume their normal life and livelihood. There have been several sexual offences but victims are scared to speak out. Loss of faith in state administration among victims is very evident.

“Out of 9,304 accused cited in the FIRs, only 1,354 (14 %) have been arrested and, out of these arrested, 80% are already on bail. Thus, overall speaking, less than 3% of the accused are in jail, while 97% are out in the open, making a mockery of the whole system….This may well be the death knell for democracy

Since May, victims and petitioners have been banging the doors of the Supreme Court, desperately seeking the judiciary’s intervention to stop the state-sponsored pogrom in WB. On June 14, even two gangrape victims filed a plea in SC seeking a CBI probe. But the only thing that SC has done thus far is issues notices to both centre and WB state government.

During a hearing on Delhi riots, while the riots were still ongoing, the Delhi HC had played the video of Kapil Mishra’s “hate speech” which controversial ‘activist’ Harsh Mander claimed had provoked the riots. Justice S Muralidhar had the video played in the courtroom. And what was that alleged ‘hate speech’? An exasperated Mishra surrounded by local Hindus delivering an ultimatum to the Police to clear the mobs which following the Shaheen Bagh template had started blocking key roads and metro stations in other parts of East Delhi.

SC judges should play some of the shocking videos (exhibit A, exhibit B) that have emerged from West Bengal and ask Sibal to tell them if this violence qualifies as ‘rare and exceptional’.

So emboldened have TMC goons become that just a few days back, they again attacked senior BJP leader Dilip Ghosh while he was campaigning for the Bhabanipur by-poll.

Parts of Bengal have already become a second Kashmir for Hindus, and the secular state’s judiciary is allowing lawyerly quibbles over procedure and technicalities to stymie the one flicker of hope victimized Hindus have – a CBI probe? Don’t our judges, lawyers, politicians have the basic humanity to place themselves in the shoes of a Hindu mother or father whose child has been raped or slaughtered with the active connivance of the very state meant to protect them? What do Hindus have to do to get justice from the Indian Republic? Do we need to borrow a leaf from the Owaisi book and threaten the state with a ‘wave of radicalization’?

(With IANS inputs)

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