Sandeshkhali: CBI files first case to probe land grabbing, sexual assault charges | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Sandeshkhali: CBI files first case to probe land grabbing, sexual assault charges

Apr 25, 2024 04:29 PM IST

The development comes a fortnight after the Calcutta high court ordered the federal agency to probe all allegations levelled by Sandeshkhali residents since February

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case to probe allegations of land grabbing and sexual assault by residents of strife torn Sandeshkhali in West Bengal, people familiar with the development said on Thursday.

The agency didn’t disclose details of the first information report (FIR) as it is a court-monitored probe. (Representative file photo)
The agency didn’t disclose details of the first information report (FIR) as it is a court-monitored probe. (Representative file photo)

The development comes a fortnight after the Calcutta high court ordered the federal agency to probe all allegations levelled by Sandeshkhali residents since February.

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Officials said the first case, pertaining to a land dispute where women of the victim’s family had to allegedly face sexual assault from influential people in the area, has been filed against five persons under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The agency didn’t disclose details of the first information report (FIR) as it is a court-monitored probe.

Earlier, the agency had circulated an email ID for people in Sandeshkhali to make complaints in such cases in which a large number of complaints have been received.

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The agency had also dispatched a team last week to Sandeshkhali to ascertain allegations and proceed with the registration of cases where allegations could be prima facie verified.

“This case related to land grabbing and sexual assault has been registered after preliminary verification during a field visit in the area,” said an officer, who didn’t want to be named.

This person said that more FIRs may follow depending on complaints.

The Calcutta high court on April 10 ordered a court-monitored CBI investigation related to incidents in Sandeshkhali, saying an impartial inquiry was required in the interest of justice and fair play.

The order was passed by the division bench of chief justice TS Sivagnanam and justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya who were hearing a suo motu motion on the alleged offences, ranging from land-grab and exploitation to molestation and rape, and petitions seeking the transfer of investigation into these from the local police to CBI.

“It goes without saying that CBI shall have the power to require any person, organisation, government authority, police authorities, quasi governmental authorities, NGOs, public spirited persons and others who may be genuinely interested in the matter to furnish information on such point or matters, as in its opinion may be useful for, or relevant to the subject matter,” said the HC in its order.

The HC had also directed the CBI to file a comprehensive report on the alleged illegal conversion of agricultural land into water bodies for pisciculture after conducting a thorough inspection of revenue records and physical inspection of land alleged to have been converted.

The agency has to submit a report before the court on the next date of the hearing on May 2.

Officials familiar with the probe added that CBI is also studying the spot inquiry report submitted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the matter.

The Commission, on April 12, stated in its report that “After interacting with the villagers, especially women in the area of Sandeshkhali, the NHRC team observed that the atmosphere of intimidation, and terror created due to the atrocities by the alleged accused persons rendered the victims silent and reluctant to seek justice. The villagers/victims faced assault, threat, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, and forced unpaid labour, and under the given circumstances, they were compelled to seek livelihood outside the Sandeshkhali region or state”.

The main accused in the Sandeshkhali related incidents, suspended Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan, and two TMC-run zilla parishad members, Uttam Sardar and Shibu Hazra, were arrested by the state police, and suspended by the TMC.

CBI had taken custody of Shahjahan in March in separate probe related to attack on an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team, which visited the area in connection with a money laundering probe on January 5.

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