HE Calcutta High Court Friday chided the West Bengal government for denying that there were cases of post-poll violence in the state.
Referring to the interim report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the high court said prima facie, it had been established that there was post-poll violence and that the state had been “caught on the wrong foot”, where it was “throughout” in “denial mode”.
“In the violence, a number of persons were killed. Many suffered sexual violence and grievous injuries. Even minor girls were not spared. They have been brutally assaulted sexually. Properties of many of them were damaged and number of them were forced to leave their houses and even migrate to neighbouring states”, the high court said.
It added the state had been unable to create an atmosphere that would build confidence among the sufferers to return to their homes or carry on their occupation.
“Investigation of the cases registered was in a slipshod manner and hardly any arrests were made in such heinous crimes. Some of the cases have not been registered although prima facie they disclosed commission of cognizable offence. In most of the cases accused have been bailed out”, the court pointed out.
It also wondered at the claims made by the state government that state authorities had not received complaints, but when an opportunity was provided to the people to file cases with the State Legal Services Authority or the NHRC, the authorities were flooded with complaints.
The NHRC committee has also recorded in its interim report that different authorities had failed to respond to the queries raised by it. It showed there is “more to conceal than to reveal”.
Moved by the NHRC’s interim report, a five-judge bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justices I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar, issued a slew of interim directions as follows-
- The police to register cases in all matters which have either been reported to it or have been placed before the NHRC or any other authority/Commission. Steps be taken to get th statements of the victims recorded under section 164 CrPC immediately, as per law.
- The State shall make all arrangements for medical treatment of all who have been injured in the violence, post assembly elections.
- Supply of rations will be ensured to the persons, even if they have lost their ration cards.
- The state government to place before the committee complete details of the cases in which the accused were arrested and have been enlarged on bail by the courts, so as to enable it to place the same before the court.
- Whatever information has been asked for by the committee from different authorities in the state, will be supplied immediately. Any delay may call for an adverse inference.
- A second autopsy of Abhijit Sarkar, Vice President of Bhartiya Mazdoor Trade Union Council in district Kolkata, whose body is lying in hospital will be got done by a team of doctors to be constituted by the head of the Hospital at Command Hospital, Kolkata. For this purpose, the Chairperson of the Committee constituted by the National Human Rights Commission shall coordinate with the hospital concerned where the body of the deceased is lying and also the Head of the Command Hospital.The body shall be shifted to the Command Hospital for carrying out the second autopsy. The report shall specifically mention about the condition of the body as to whether it was properly preserved in the hospital where it was.
- All the central agencies and service providers of various services to assist the committee and provide the requisite information wherever required, to the extent permissible in law.
- The Chief Secretary of the State to ensure the preservation of the correspondence of the Special Branch/ Intelligence Branch of the State Police. Logs of different control rooms should also be preserved. The entire material from May 02, 2021 till date be kept in a sealed cover duly signed by the members of the committee, immediately. Any lapse or delay in the matter will invite adverse inference.
The court also issued notice to Rashid Munir Khan, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Suburban Division, Kolkata to show cause as to why proceedings for contempt should not be initiated against him for not ensuring adequate police protection to the NHRC team which allegedly was attacked during the course of its work on the ground.
The court clarified that it was not making the interim report public as of now as the matter is still being investigated by the NHRC Committee.
“Before passing any final order, due opportunity shall be granted to all the concerned parties to place their cases before the court, in view of final report to be submitted by the Committee”, the high court assured the state government.
On June 19, the high court had asked the NHRC to constitute a committee to examine all the complaints of post-poll violence in West Bengal that resulted in human rights violations and loss of lives and property.