Updated: September 29, 2021 4:12:12 am
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre on a plea by the West Bengal government challenging the Calcutta High Court’s order directing a CBI probe into post-poll violence in the state following the Trinamool Congress’s victory in the recent Assembly polls.
“On the face of it, we find out that you have made out a case for issuance of notice. Let us see what they have to say. We will hear it in one go when the other side is also there,” a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the West Bengal government.
The court, which fixed the next hearing for October 7, however, declined to pass any interim order, even though Sibal urged it to stay the filing of FIRs by CBI in the meanwhile.
“CBI is carrying on investigation. Your Lordships should say that it should be subject to the outcome of this court’s order,” Sibal submitted.
The bench replied, “That is always there. We don’t need to say.”
Sibal then added that the court should say no fresh cases to be registered.
But the bench told him that “in one week nothing will happen”.
Seeking some interim relief, Sibal pointed out that the CBI is issuing notices to police officers in the state.
But Justice Saran responded that the court will look into the matter on October 7. He also referred to the arguments of the senior counsel that the principles of natural justice were not followed in passing of the Calcutta High Court order and said, “Principles of natural justice that you are arguing require that we should not pass orders without hearing the other side.”
In the course of his arguments, Sibal pointed out that the High Court’s August 19 ruling, asking CBI to take over the probe, was as per findings of the seven-member fact-finding committee constituted by the National Human Rights Commission and contended that the state had an “apprehension of bias” on part of the panel. as three of its members were allegedly affiliated to the BJP.
Sibal contended that the panel did not follow the requisite procedure under the Human Rights Act to arrive at its conclusions. He also said the state was denied natural justice, as the HC did not give it adequate opportunity to respond to the charges.
“Natural justice of state. You castigate the state. You never allow them to know what kind of investigation is going on…whatever we said was never considered,” Sibal said, adding that the state was asked to respond to thousands of complaints within just seven days.
There is no way the investigation can be completed within seven days, Sibal argued.
The senior counsel also questioned if the High Court in exercise of its powers under Article 226 can order en masse transfer of cases.
“Principle evolved is that transfer is case by case,” he said. “You can’t say I received 100 complaints and will transfer them without looking at it on a case-to-case basis. There can’t be en masse transfer of cases.”
The consequence of the order, he said, is that investigation is on against people who are already dead.
Sibal contended that there should be some evidence before drawing adverse conclusions against the state police. “When you come to violence in a state you question police officers as if no one can be trusted, and as if a political party in power is in control. But you don’t apply the same yardstick in the centre,” he said.
Regarding other criminal cases related to post-poll violence, the High Court had directed that they be investigated by a Special Investigation Team under the monitoring of the court.
The HC verdict came on PILs which had alleged that people who supported the BJP, the TMC’s principal rival, were subjected to assault, made to flee their homes, and properties were destroyed during the violence in the wake of the Assembly elections, and sought impartial probe into the incidents.
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