Calcutta HC orders fresh probe in 2018 death of CPI (M) member and his wife

Jan 18, 2023 02:39 PM IST

The judge set aside the chargesheet filed by the South 24 Parganas district police, saying no trial would be held on its basis

Five years after a Communist Party of India (CPI) (Marxist) member and his wife were allegedly murdered inside their home at Kakdwip in Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, the Calcutta high court on Monday ordered a fresh probe by a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, said lawyer Sabyasachi Chatterjee who represented the couple’s son in court.

The suspects in the alleged murder were supporters of the “ruling dispensation” said the order. (File photo)
The suspects in the alleged murder were supporters of the “ruling dispensation” said the order. (File photo)

In his order, justice Rajasekhar Mantha said IPS officer Damayanti Sen will conduct fresh investigation and form her own team to find out how Deba Prasad Das and his wife, Usha Rani Das, died hours before the panchayat elections in Bengal were held on March 13, 2018.

The order, a copy of which was seen by HT, raised serious questions about the police investigation and differences in the post mortem report and confessional statement given by the prime accused regarding the cause of death.

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The judge set aside the chargesheet filed by the South 24 Parganas district police, saying no trial would be held on its basis.

The suspects in the alleged murder were supporters of the “ruling dispensation” said the order, without naming the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The main accused, Bidyut Haldar, was arrested from Sangareddy district of Telengana in August 2018.

The chargesheet said Haldar confessed that he and his associates strangled the couple and set their house on fire to destroy evidence.

The judge pointed at the forensic report to dismiss the confession.

The court order said, “Based on the above confessional statements, Bidyut Halder and the persons named by him were charge-sheeted. Political enmity was stated to be the motive of the crime. What is most startling here is that the confessional statement of Bidyut Halder is in direct contradiction with the post mortem report of the two victims. The post mortem report indicates that the thyroid bone and thyroid cartilage’ of both the victims were intact. None of the normal medical consequences of strangulation or compression in the throat area is mentioned. Death is stated to have occurred as a consequence of the burn injuries.”

The order said, “What also transpires from a plain reading of the post mortem report and comparing the same with the confessional statement is that the accused named in the FIR would stand clearly acquitted as they are completely contradictory. The real culprits are still at large.”

“What remains, however, to be considered is the reasons advanced by the state for not naming any of the original accused in the chargesheet. Each of the said persons is supposed to have had a clear verifiable alibi, that they were not present at the scene of the crime,” the order said.

The order was passed after hearing on a petition filed by the couple’s son, Dipankar Das.

The order said, “A formal complaint was filed by the petitioner before the Kakdwip police station on May 14, 2018 naming ten persons i.e., Amit Mondal, Ashok Mondal, Shiba Prasad Mondal, Chandan Giri, Sk. Monirul, Gokul Jana, Narayan Pati, Meghnath Pakua, Madhab Kander and Nikunja Naskar and others. These persons are members of the ruling dispensation. Although ingredients of Section 302 (murder) are clearly disclosed in the complaint, Kakdwip police station initially refused to accept the complaint. It is only after pressure from locals that the complaint was received, but no First Information Report (FIR) was registered. The lame excuse given by the state is that the police were busy with election duties.”

“It is curious to note that on May 15, 2018, a minister of the state and director general of police have made public statements that the victim died due to a fire caused by short circuit,” the order said.

“The investigation was proceeding on the basis of the short circuit theory all the while until August 13, 2018 when the forensic science laboratory (FSL) report was received. The report revealed that the condition of the electrical wire and bulb recovered from premises were not due to any electrical short circuit. The wires were burned and the bulbs had marks of burning due to external factors, which caused the fire,” said the order.

The minister in question was Sunderbans affairs minister Manturam Pakhira and the officer was Anuj Sharma, who was additional director general of police. The order however did not mention any name.

During the police investigation, residents of the area dismissed the short circuit theory saying power supply was suspended on that night because of heavy rain and storm.

Dipankar Das, who used to work for a catering service at the time of the murder, studied law to become a lawyer and move the court.

On the night of the incident, he returned from work and found his home on fire. The court has designated him as the prime eyewitness.

“I saw the suspects leaving the spot and even heard their conversation,” Das told mediapersons on Tuesday.

Justice Mantha’s order said, “The statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the complainant, who stated in the complaint that he saw the accused persons fleeing after burning the house, was never ever recorded by the investigating officer. Only a statement under Section 164 is recorded.”

“This Court has no hesitation to hold that the investigation has been clearly perfunctory. The direction of the investigation might have been altered at the instance of third persons. The Investigating officer of the case may have been acting on such instructions. The charge sheet filed in this case cannot be accepted,” wrote justice Mantha.

No TMC leader was willing to comment on the judgement.

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