Allegations of rape, murder and crimes against women after the Bengal election will be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, the Calcutta High Court said Thursday afternoon.
Other criminal cases related to the post-poll violence, will be investigated by a special Bengal Police team led by Suman Bala Sahoo, an IPS officer of DG rank, and include Kolkata Police Commissioner Soumen Mitra and senior officer Ranbir Kumar. The court will track the SIT’s progress.
Both teams have been directed to submit reports in six weeks.
A five-member bench headed by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ruled on petitions seeking an impartial probe into the post-poll violence.
The Trinamool has expressed its unhappiness over the judgement, with Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy quoted by news agency ANI as saying the Bengal government could “appeal to a higher court”.
“I’m unhappy with verdict. If in every law and order matter, which is entirely within a state’s jurisdiction, the CBI comes… it is transgression of the state’s right. I’m sure the (Bengal) state government will judge the situation and take a decision to appeal to a higher court, if necessary,” he said.
The BJP, however, has welcomed the court’s decision, with Union Minister Anurag Thakur being quoted by ANI as saying that “there is no place for violence in a democracy”.
The court had earlier directed the National Human Rights Commission, or NHRC, to carry out a preliminary inquiry.
Last month the court, in its strongest remarks so far, told the state government it was in “denial mode”, and that the NHRC’s interim report indicated enough evidence to establish post-poll violence.
The report proved to be hugely controversial because it indicted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government, and accused them of “appalling apathy”.
It also backed a CBI probe into “grievous offences like murder and rape”, and called for such cases to be tried outside Bengal.
The NHRC claimed the situation then was a “manifestation of law of ruler instead of rule of law”, and that “local police has been grossly derelict, if not complicit, in this violence”; it said police failed to file FIRs for alleged rape and murder cases.
The incendiary report did not go unanswered; Ms Banerjee lashed out at the NHRC for “disrespecting the court” and pursuing the “political vendetta” of the BJP by leaking its report.
“The BJP is now using impartial agencies to settle political scores and malign our state. NHRC should have respected the court. Instead of leaking findings to the media, it should have first submitted the same to the court,” she said.
The NHRC, however, denied Ms Banerjee’s charge that its report was leaked, and pointed out that the report was available with “all concerned parties as per directives of the court”.
The Bengal government had urged the High Court to “disregard the contents of the entire report” as it “does not depict the true and correct picture”.
In a detailed affidavit submitted last month, the government also claimed several members of the NHRC panel were linked to the BJP.
The BJP has accused the Trinamool of unleashing its thugs to kill party workers, attack women members, vandalise houses, and loot shops and offices belonging to its leaders.
The Bengal government hit back saying reports were greatly exaggerated, with fake videos and images circulated to create incorrect narratives.
The government also said most of the violence took place around May 2 (vote-counting day), when Election Commission controlled state police.