Trinamool grappling with repeated Calcutta HC orders of probe by central agencies in West Bengal
The developments centering Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay who has been taken off cases relating to West Bengal school job scam has brought the focus on the repeated directions by the Calcutta High Court ordering investigation by Central agencies in scams, irregularities and incidents of violence in the State. Justice Gangopadhyay had directed investigation by Central agencies on more than a dozen occasions in irregularities relating to the West Bengal school job scam, the last being in the alleged municipal recruitment scam.
Not only Justice Gangopadhyay but several other Benches of the Calcutta High Court had directed investigation by Central agencies into irregularities and violence in West Bengal over the past two years.
On April 27, a Division Bench of Justice of Acting Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct a probe into the violence during Ram Navami procession at Shibpur in Howrah, Dalkhola in Uttar Dinajpur and Rishra in Hooghly district. The very next day, Indranil Khan, the president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha filed a petition demanding a probe by Central agencies into the killing of a Rajbangshi youth at Kaliachak. The matter will come up for hearing next week.
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Reacting to the developments at the Calcutta High Court, Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said, “In 22 months (since Trinamool came to power in 2021) there have been directions of probe by Central agencies 23 times”.
After coming to power for the third consecutive time in 2021, the Trinamool Congress Government has been grappling with repeated orders of Calcutta High Court where it had directed investigation by Central agencies.
The Calcutta High Court directed CBI investigation in the post poll violence where several supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were killed and hundreds were turned homeless. As the CBI was registering FIR in cases of post poll violence the violence at Bogtui village in March 2022 once again raised questions on the law-and-order situation. Ten persons were burnt alive because of a factional feud between local Trinamool Congress leaders and the Court did not hesitate to assign the matter to CBI.
What followed March 2022 was CBI investigation in host of cases of violence including cases of sexual assault and death of minor at Hanskhali. Along with instances of violence, on several instances CBI probe was directed in West Bengal school job scam.
Political observers say that Abhishek Banerjee is right when he says that 23 investigations by the Central agencies have been ordered but they point out to a large extent the functioning of State administration under Trinamool Congress regime may be the reason behind the Court not trusting the State investigation agencies.
“In most of the cases where the Calcutta High Court has ordered a probe by Central agencies, there has been a failure of the State administration. It is not one Bench of the Calcutta High Court but several judges on several issues from scams to law and order have ordered investigation by Central agencies,” Biswanath Chakraborty, political analyst and professor of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University said.
In certain cases, like a CBI probe in municipal recruitment scam and attack on convoy of Union Minister of State Nitish Pramanik, the Supreme Court had stayed these orders.
Controversy over relief to Suvendu
Another issue that has come to the fore in the legal tussle is the courts granting relief to Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari. Justice Rajasekhar Mantha of Calcutta High Court had granted relief to Mr. Adhikari in the FIRs lodged against him by West Bengal police. The development around giving relief to Mr. Adhikari turned ugly when posters were put up against Justice Mantha in the premises of the High Court and near his residence. A three Bench Judge of the Calcutta High Court is hearing the contempt petition.
“The Trinamool Congress has approached the Supreme Court five times challenging the High Court order. The government is spending crores of rupees higher only to target me,” Mr. Adhikari has said on the issue.
WB Congress leader’s letter to Singhvi
The developments in the Court have not only resulted in war of words between the Trinamool and the BJP. A section of West Bengal Congress leadership has been upset over its top leaders representing Trinamool Congress and West Bengal Government in the Supreme Court. Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram had in May 2022 faced protests at Calcutta High Court when he appeared for West Bengal Government in a case. State Congress leader Koustav Bagchi on April 30 said that he has written a letter to Abhishek Manu Singhvi pointing out that he representing the Trinamool and West Bengal Government in apex court has brought “shame” to Congress workers in WB.