Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government is yet to file an appeal against the Calcutta High Court’s 19 August order for a probe into alleged post-poll violence in the state, but Law Minister Moloy Ghatak has told ThePrint that a draft for the Supreme Court appeal is ready, and that a final call on the petition would be taken by the chief minister.
Ghatak said “we will file many such appeals, if we feel that the CBI is working in a motivated way”.
“I was in Tripura on some political assignments given by the party. I have returned… We will take a call soon on the matter,” he told ThePrint.
A week back, the Calcutta HC had directed the CBI to investigate “serious cases” of alleged post-poll violence in Bengal, including 29 alleged murders and 12 allegations of rape as listed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) committee probe report.
It also ordered the setting up of an SIT to probe “other” cases of alleged post-poll violence, including grievous hurt or incapacitation, arson, vandalisation, loot, damage to public or private property, threats and criminal intimidation as mentioned in the NHRC report
The HC order was seen as a setback to the ruling Trinamool Congress government as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee looks to expand her party’s footprint beyond Bengal. The state has maintained that the violence broke out before their administration took over.
A top official of Bengal’s law department had last week told ThePrint that the government is expected move the Supreme Court against the high court’s order.
Ghatak also pointed out that the figures for murders and rapes as mentioned in the NHRC report were “misleading”.
“They (CBI) have to reach the families of victims of all political parties. Of 29 murder cases, as listed by the NHRC committee, 15 are Trinamool workers. CBI has to go to their houses too and arrest the accused BJP leaders,” Ghatak said.
The minister said the 12 incidents of rape seem to be factually wrong information. “A dozen rape cases they have listed. Those never happened. In many cases, it was found that the incidents were not related to politics. But they have included everything, including the general cases of crime into the same bracket of post-poll violence. This is unjust,” he said.
Allegations of violence
Incidences of violence were reported from several parts of West Bengal in May, after the announcement of the assembly election results. The BJP has accused the Trinamool of atrocities against its workers, an allegation that the ruling party has consistently denied.
The committee had recommended a court-monitored investigation by the CBI or the SIT and compensation to the victims in its report. But the Bengal CM and her ministers have alleged that the NHRC committee was “politically motivated”.
The state government had also submitted a voluminous affidavit in HC on 26 July to counter the NHRC report.
The Print reached Abhishek Manu Singhvi, advocate on record for Bengal’s Director General of Police (DGP) via text message. To ThePrint’s questions related to the case and a possible SC appeal against the HC’s 19 August order, Singhvi said he has been consulted by the state.
“I will appear for the state. We are likely to file the appeal shortly,” he said.
The state government has appointed at least 10 senior advocates, including Singhvi and Kapil Sibal as its counsels.
CBI prepares for probe
Meanwhile, as the Bengal government delays moving the SC and takes time to reach a final decision on the issue, the CBI has already started preparing for the investigation.
On 19 August, the same day as the HC order, the CBI formed four Special Investigation Units (SIU) with 25 senior officers attached from several CBI zones. On 24 August, the central agency passed another order, in which it has attached 21 officers to each unit, and asked their respective bureaus to release them by 26 August for the investigation. The copies of the orders have been accessed by ThePrint.
The central agency is now ready with 109 officers to investigate the alleged murders and rapes.
However, the state government is yet to issue an order for the constitution of the three-member SIT.
The court, in its order, has named three IPS officers – Suman Bala Sahoo, Soumen Mitra and Ranveer Kumar —as members of the SIT.
Both the CBI and SIT investigations will be monitored by the court, which wants a status report to be filed six weeks from the date of the order.