In an unusual sequence of events, there have been at least nine court-monitored probes taken up by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a span of less than a year in West Bengal.
It all started with the Calcutta High Court ordering a CBI probe in August 2021, following allegations of violence by the Opposition BJP after the Bengal assembly poll results were announced on May 2. Following this, several other court-monitored probes by the CBI, including the Bogtui incident, Trinamool deputy panchayat head Bhadu Sheikh’s murder case and Congress councillor Tapan Kandu’s murder case, among others, were ordered. Perhaps the most significant has been the probe into the recruitment irregularities related to the WBSSC scam, ordered by the HC.
“The CBI, taking up investigations in so many cases, which are all court monitored, is a very unusual phenomena and reflects a kind of distrust in the state police and the kind of investigation undertaken by them…,” Pankaj Datta, former Inspector General of Police, Bengal, told ET.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate, who fought the WBSSC-related cases, told ET, “The police and administration are forced to work under the order of the ruling party. Police inaction is apparent and thus the court is ordering CBI investigations in most cases. Police is not eager to lodge any complaint.”
“People want transparency in investigation, a sense of justness (that the right culprit has been arrested) and promptness of investigation. If these three elements converge — people’s sentiments never go hostile and public perception remains pro-administration. With convergence of these three factors, the investigation also gains momentum. However, in the case of Tapan Kandu, Bogtui and other cases these three factors did not converge. There were several shortcomings and thus CBI probe order was given,” Datta said
Here is a look at some of the cases taken up by the CBI:
The Calcutta HC on August 19, 2021, directed a CBI probe into all alleged cases of heinous crimes such as rape and murder in connection with the alleged post-poll violence following the Bengal assembly elections result announcement on May 2. For other cases involving post-poll violence, the court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising three senior IPS officers of Bengal.
Bogtui Violence in Rampurhat
Eight persons, including women and children, were charred to death by miscreants at Bogtui village near Rampurhat in Birbhum district on March 21, 2021. Later, two died at hospital, taking the toll to 10. It was alleged that a mob had entered the village and set houses ablaze following the murder of Trinamool deputy panchayat head Bhadu Sheikh. Police was blamed for not taking appropriate action. The Calcutta HC on March 25 directed the CBI to probe the incidents of murder and violence at Bogtui. The CBI registered a case on April 8, 2022, following the Calcutta HC’s orders.
Bhadu Sheikh Murder in Bogtui
The Calcutta HC handed over the Bhadu Sheikh murder case to the CBI as the court observed that the case was closely related to the Bogtui incident.
Tapan Kandu murder
Tapan Kandu, a newly-elected Congress councillor of Jhalda municipality of Purulia district, was gunned down at point-blank range on March 13, 2022. Kandu’s family members demanded a CBI probe, alleging Trinamool Congress’ involvement in the murder. The Calcutta HC ordered a CBI probe on April 4, 2022 into the alleged murder. Kandu’s murder had created a political furore after the civic polls in which the Trinamool Congress had a landslide victory.
Niranjan Baishnab’s unnatural death
After Kandu murder, an eyewitness to the incident Niranjan Baishnab, was found hanging at his house on April 6. As Baishnab’s death could also be related to Kandu’s murder, this case was also handed over to the CBI on April 12, 2022.
Tapan Dutta Murder case
The Calcutta HC on June 9, 2022, had handed over the Tapan Dutta murder case to CBI, 11 years after the Trinamool Congress leader and environment activist was gunned down while driving home. The incident took place on May 6, 2011. The state government and one of the accused, Sashti Gayen, had moved the division bench of the HC against the CBI probe order given by single bench of the HC. Chief Justice Prakash Srivastav and Rajarshi Bhardwaj’s division bench upheld the single bench’s decision. Earlier, the CID was probing the case.
Gang-rape at Hanskhali
The CBI took over the alleged Hanskhali gangrape case following directions from the Calcutta HC on April 12, 2022. Following the court order, the CBI registered a charge sheet in April against the four accused and several others. A girl was allegedly raped on April 4 during a birthday party at the house of a Trinamool panchayat leader’s son in Nadia district’s Hanskhali, according to a police complaint filed by her parents. The court, which monitored the investigation, directed the state-appointed SIT to hand over all the documents and those arrested in the case to the CBI.
The Calcutta HC directed the CBI to inquire into the alleged irregularities in the appointment of teachers, Group-C and D staff (non-teaching) in state government-run and state-aided secondary schools in Bengal in connection with the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) selection process. CBI is currently investigating the case and still interrogating several arrested officials. CBI also interrogated former Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. Since the money was being diverted via shell companies, the Enforcement Directorate also stepped in and filed a chargesheet against Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee.