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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Rattled WB govt moves SC against HC order for CBI probe into post-poll violence

The West Bengal government has moved the Supreme Court against the CBI probe ordered by the Calcutta High Court into cases of murder and crimes against women, which allegedly took place following the Assembly elections, contending that the central agency has been rightly described as a “caged parrot” and cannot function independently.

In a 774-page plea, the state government contended that the committee, appointed by the NHRC Chairperson to examine cases of alleged human rights violations, consisted of members who are either members of the Bharatiya Janta Party, or known to be closely associated with the party.

“The inclusion of Atif Rasheed and Rajulben L. Desai in the committee indeed gave rise to a reasonable likelihood of bias and vitiated the independence of the entire committee, especially given their admitted leadership position within the said Committee and their rank when compared to others in the committee,” it said.

The plea added that the 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”.

On the aspect of the CBI probe, the plea claimed past experience in the state has shown that the agency cannot function independently and “is often invoked as a tool to persecute officials of the state government, public servants, and representatives of the people in the state”.

“An honest and impartial investigation cannot be expected from the CBI, especially in the context of the state of West Bengal. It is not out of place to mention that CBI has been chastised by different High Courts across states for its evident lack of independence and has been rightly described as a caged parrot.”

“The CBI’s track record in filing timely charge sheets and achieving convictions is woefully poor and therefore their competence to investigate in a timely manner cases of such significance is evident from their poor track record,” the state government in its plea in the top court.

In one of the grounds in the plea, challenging the high court order, claimed the order has not made any effort to define what would constitute “post-poll violence” and has left the issue to be decided by investigating agencies, thereby, showcasing a complete lack of application of mind, and creating further confusion and uncertainty over the issue.

The plea cited the separate opinion by Justice Soumen Sen, in the order, that “post-poll violence” must “refer only to those incidents that taken place in the immediate aftermath of the election results and the complaints must have a direct nexus to the election results”.

“This reasonable and logical yardstick of what constitutes ‘post-poll violence’ was not accepted by the majority bench in the impugned order and innumerable unrelated cases were brought within the rubric of post-poll violence cases,” the plea contended.

The high court, in its August 19 order, had said that all cases, as per report of the NHRC committee, where allegations are about murder of person or crime against women regarding rape or attempt to rape shall be referred to the CBI for investigation.

It further added that the state government should hand over all records of cases to the CBI for such investigation and also referred all other cases cited by the NHRC committee in its report to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for a court-monitored probe.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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