In a setback for the Mamata Banerjee government, the Calcutta high court on Monday rejected its plea for recalling the order that directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate post-poll violence in the state. The high court on June 18 had directed the chairperson of the NHRC to form a panel for examining all cases of alleged human rights violations during post-poll violence.
A five-judge bench of the high court dismissed the plea of the West Bengal government for recalling the order passed in respect of a bunch of PILs alleging displacement of people from their residences, physical assault, destruction of property and ransacking of places of business owing to post- poll violence in the state. The state government had moved the HC urging it to recall or modify its order directing the NHRC chairperson to form a committee to probe post-poll violence complaints and report back to the court, with details including that of offenders and officers who didn’t act. The state had also pleaded in court for remarks made against it to be “expunged” from the order.
The petition by Bengal home secretary B P Gopalika had said the state government should be given a chance to probe and report on the list of 3,423 complaints provided to HC by West Bengal Legal Services Authority (WBLSA) on June 10. The government further said that allegations that police superintendents didn’t act on many such complaints needed to be verified.
In its petition, the state said that it “did not get any opportunity to peruse the report or to look into the complaints mentioned in the report of the WBLSA and verify the allegations made in the complaints as referred to in such report and assist this hon’ble court.”
Calcutta HC had scheduled the case for today on 18 June
Earlier, pulling up the state government for taking no concrete steps against post-poll violence, the Calcutta High Court on 18 June ordered the National Human Rights Commission to constitute a committee for visits to violence-hit areas and asked it file a report by 30 June. The state is likely to file a recall petition on 21 June against the order.
The five-judge bench — comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Jindal, Justice Indra Prasanna Mukherjee, Justice Soumen Sen, Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Subrata Talukder — was hearing a plea filed by BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal, who lost in the Assembly polls from Entally in Kolkata. She alleged that a number of people had fled their homes to save their life in post poll violence and were unable to return. She sought the high court’s intervention to ensure safe return of the families. o The court had also received similar complaints on post-poll violence.
“Though action should have been taken by the state but despite matter being pending in Court apparently no concrete steps have been taken,” said the Bench.
Citing affidavits filed by petitioners, the court expressed concern that people who had returned home were compelled to withdraw complaints.
“In our view, this exercise of filing of affidavit and counter affidavit will continue. It may not lead us anywhere because State from the very beginning had been denying everything, but the facts… are different,” observed the Bench.
“Under these circumstances… we request the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission to constitute a committee of which the Member Secretary of State Legal Services Authority shall be a member, to examine all the cases, the complaints of which have already been received by the Commission or which may be received,” the Calcutta High Court said. It ordered that complaints received by the State Legal Services Authority on 10 June be sent to the commission.
The Calcutta High Court ordered, “The Committee shall examine all the cases and, maybe, by visiting the affected areas and submit a comprehensive report to this Court about the present situation and also the steps to be taken to ensure confidence of the people that they can peacefully live in their houses and also carry on their occupation or business to earn their livelihood. The persons prima facie responsible for crime and the officers who maintained calculated silence on the issue, be pointed out.”
Advocate and BJP leader Priyanka Tibrewal alleged that the the state government had failed to maintain law and order and filed false affidavits to “save its neck”.
“So, the National Human Rights Commission’s report will reveal ground reality and suffering of the people of West Bengal,” she said.