Total Casual Attitude Of The State In A Serious Matter: Calcutta HC Comes Down Heavily On WB Govt For Not … – Live Law – Indian Legal News

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The Calcutta High Court on Monday took on record the status report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pertaining to the investigation of cases related to murder, rape and crime against women that had allegedly taken place post the declaration of the West Bengal assembly elections in May 2021. The Court vide order dated August 19 had specified that the CBI investigation would be court monitored.

The Court also took on record the preliminary report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Court to investigate cases other than murder, rape and crimes against women.

A Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj perused the status report submitted by the CBI in a sealed cover and accordingly observed,

“Status report has also been filed by CBI in a sealed cover. It was opened. Briefly it mentions that total 40 FIRs’ were registered. After investigation charge-sheets have been filed in seven cases. Certain further details have been mentioned regarding the manner in which the investigation is being carried out. We need not make that part of the order.”

Additional Solicitor General Y.J Dastoor further apprised the Court that investigation was being carried out smoothly and that no difficulty was being faced by the central agency. He further stated that the State agencies were cooperating in the investigation.

The Bench however took serious objections to the State government appointing 10 IPS officers to assist the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the High Court to probe into allegations of post poll violence. The government of West Bengal had released a notification dated September 1, 2021 to this effect stating, “The services of the IPS officers as given below are hereby spared in addition to their normal duties to assist the SIT constituted by the Hon’ble High Court at Calcutta“.

In its order dated August 19, the High Court had directed the constitution of a SIT consisting of IPS officers of the West Bengal cadre- Suman Bala Sahoo and Soumen Mitra and Ranveer Kumar to probe into various criminal cases other than those related to murder, rape and crimes against women.

The Bench noted on Monday that the August 19 order had not instructed the State government to appoint such additional IPS officers. Furthermore, no request to this effect had also been made by the SIT constituted.

A brief perusal of the report shows that the investigation is being carried out for which the State had spared services of ten senior IPS officers vide order dated September 01, 2021. A perusal of the aforesaid order shows that it has no reference to any request or meeting with the SIT. It apparently shows that the government of its own had spared the services of some of the officers to assist the SIT. In addition to that, vide order dated September 03, 2021 certain other officers were specified to assist the SIT for different zones in the State. This also does not have reference to any request made by the SIT“, the Bench observed while referring to the preliminary report of the SIT.

During the hearing, the Court was informed by the State government that such officers had been selected to assist the SIT after due consultation with the SIT members. However, when the Court asked for the minutes of the meeting for the purpose of verification, the State government failed to submit anything on record.

“At the time of hearing it was sought to be clarified that the aforesaid officers were selected after consultation with the SIT. However, there are no minutes of meeting of the SIT placed on record”, the Bench further opined.

The Bench further noted that despite Justice Manjula Chellur, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court being appointed by the Court vide order dated September 3, 2021 to head the SIT constituted, ‘she had not been taken into confidence‘ for the purpose of appointing additional IPS officers to assist the SIT.

Furthermore, some advocates had also been appointed by the State government to act as legal advisors to assist the zonal teams of the SIT. However, the Court noted that even with regards to such appointment, Justice Manjula Chellur had not been consulted with by the State government.

The Court also recorded in its order that it has been alleged by the counsel for the petitioner that the counsel appearing on behalf of the SIT is an empanelled advocate by the State government thus insinuating at a potential conflict of interest. However, this allegation had been disputed by the concerned counsel during the hearing.

The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner in WPA(P) 167 of 2021 submitted that even the counsel, who is assisting on behalf of the SIT before this Court, is one of the panel counsel for appearance on behalf of the State. Learned counsel appearing for the SIT has disputed this fact., the order read.

ACJ Rajesh Bindal also expressed strong reservations to the fact that the State government had not yet extended any compensation to victims of post poll violence. The Court vide order dated August 19 had directed the State of West Bengal to immediately process the compensation for the victims of the post-poll violence. However, on Monday the counsel appearing for the State had failed to show adherence to such directions.

Learned counsel appearing for the State submitted that he does not have any information with reference to that to be furnished to the Court. He has sought time. This apparently shows total casual attitude in a serious matter”, the Court recorded in its order.

The Bench also recorded its in order that a SLP had been filed in the Supreme Court by the State of West Bengal challenging the August 19 order of the High Court which is listed for further hearing on October 7. The Bench noted that the Supreme Court had not issued any interim stay in this regard.

On September 29, the Supreme Court had issued notice in the petition filed by the State of West Bengal challenging the High Court’s direction for CBI investigation into cases of murder, rape and crimes against women which allegedly took place during the post-poll violence in West Bengal. A bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose had observed that the State of West Bengal through its counsel Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal has made out a prima facie case for issuance of notice.

The High Court on Monday further directed the State government to make appropriate arrangements to provide security to Justice Manjula Chellur who is currently residing in Karnataka.

As Justice Chellur is having her native place in State of Karnataka, considering the seriousness of the matter, it is directed that the competent authority in the State shall communicate with the competent authority in the State of Karnataka to provide appropriate security cover to Hon’ble Ms. Justice Manjula Chellur till such time she is monitoring the investigation”, the Court observed.

The matter is slated to be heard next on November 8.

Case Title: Anindya Sundar Das v. Union of India and other connected matters

Click Here To Read/Download Order