The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that the non-bailable arrest warrant against BJP candidate and former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh in connection with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls violence case be kept in abeyance till the conclusion of the assembly polls in West Bengal.
Ms Ghosh is contesting from Derba constituency in the state against Trinamool Congress candidate Humayun Kabir, also a former IPS officer.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S Abdul Nazeer and Hemant Gupta said no further coercive action should be taken against Ms Ghosh in the case. The top court listed the matter for further hearing after two months.
During the hearing, senior advocate Nieeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for Ms Ghosh, said the court had been protecting the highly decorated former IPS officer. However, multiple cases were filed against her after she resigned from West Bengal’s ruling TMC, he said.
He said the top court had in 2019 protected her against the might of the state by saying she will be interrogated after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls.
According to Ms Kaul, in one case, she was proceeded against in an alleged assault case along with the CISF officials protecting her, without even taking prior consent.
Since 2019, she has been called for questioning in connection with various FIRs lodged against her, he said, adding that even her husband was made accused in one of the cases in which the top court had granted him relief.
Ms Kaul sought complete hearing on her plea for quashing of the FIR. In the meantime, he said, she should be protected from any coercive action and be allowed to file her nomination and campaign in the state assembly polls.
The bench then asked senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the West Bengal government, why the state wanted to arrest her when the top court had granted her protection in some cases.
Mr Luthra said Ms Ghosh had chosen not to appear in one of the cases before the trial court and she should be going there to seek cancelation of the warrant.
He said she had never been arrested during the investigation and the coercive process had been issued against her by the court and not the police.
The bench observed that she should not be arrested till the election process is over in connection with the FIR lodged in relation to the alleged violence in the last Lok Sabha polls.
The top court allowed Ms Ghosh’s plea for protection from arrest and said the non-bailable arrest warrant issued against her should be kept in abeyance till the assembly polls end.
The former IPS officer had moved the top court on Monday seeking a stay of the arrest warrant and quashing of the FIR lodged against her in connection with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls violence case.
She had said in her intervention application that she has been implicated in new cases out of political vendetta despite the top court granting her relief of “no coercive action” in a series of “false cases” lodged against her on February 19, 2019.
“Petitioner submits that such FIRs are kept secret as long as possible only to emerge suddenly to harass the applicant/petitioner and to keep her entangled in Court proceedings at every moment and, consequentially, to prevent her from pursuing her political career,” her plea said.
Ms Ghosh said she was a BJP candidate from Ghatal Parliamentary constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and alleged that she was attacked by TMC goons at every polling booth and police remained mute spectators.
On February 19, 2019, the top court had provided her relief by granting her protection from arrest in all the cases registered against her.
Ms Ghosh, once considered close to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, claimed the police has registered over dozen FIRs against her, including a case of alleged extortion and illegal exchange of banned notes for gold.
The top court had earlier granted her protection from arrest in a case of alleged extortion and illegal exchange of banned notes for gold.
The West Bengal government had earlier opposed the plea of Ms Ghosh and said she wants a stay of arrest on a writ petition, which cannot be done.
On February 4, 2019, Ms Ghosh joined the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and senior party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Ms Ghosh, who was the West Midnapore Superintendent of Police for more than six years, was transferred as commandant of the third battalion of the state armed police on December 26, 2017. She resigned from service two days later.