Sandeshkhali unrest: Cal HC says police free to arrest TMC leader Shahjahan | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Sandeshkhali unrest: Cal HC says police free to arrest TMC leader Shahjahan

Feb 26, 2024 07:01 PM IST

This came a day after Abhishek Banerjee, national general secretary of the TMC, said the Calcutta high court had tied the hands of the police

Kolkata: Brushing aside claims made by Trinamool Congress (TMC) that the police were not being able to arrest be Sheikh Shahjahan cause of a court stay order, the Calcutta high court said on Monday that it hasn’t passed any order restraining the police from arresting the TMC leader, a prime accused in the case related to attack on Enforcement Directorate officials in January this year in Sandeshkhali.

TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh is on the run following the attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali last month. (File photo)
TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh is on the run following the attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali last month. (File photo)

“Which is that order? How can there be a restraint order asking police not to arrest him? We clarify it right now that there is no order restraining the state police from apprehending,” said a bench presided over by Calcutta high court Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam, adding that he shall be arrested.

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This came a day after Abhishek Banerjee, TMC national general secretary, said the Calcutta high court has tied the hands of the police.

“The judiciary is guarding Sheikh Shahjahan. The TMC government will not spare anyone if the allegations are genuine but the Calcutta high court has tied the hands of the police,” Banerjee said on Sunday evening in his Lok Sabha constituency.

Also Read: Fact-finding delegation detained in West Bengal

Calcutta high court advocate Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, who was appointed the amicus curiae in the case told the bench that a wrong message was going out.

“The court had granted a stay on the constitution of a Special Investigation Team alone. Stay on constitution is different from stay on arrest. Police have registered FIR against him under various sections of IPC and he has been branded as an accused. Obviously, he needs to be arrested,” the bench stated.

Soon after the Calcutta high court’s clarification, the ruling party said that Shahjahan would be arrested within week.

“We thank the Calcutta high court for allowing the police to arrest Shahjahan. He will be arrested within a week,” Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson, told media.

Meanwhile in Sandeshkhali, around 80 km from Kolkata, fresh protests broke out on Monday. Villagers ransacked the house of a TMC panchayat member Shankar Sardar and set ablaze a hay stack kept in the house of Haladhar Ari, another TMC leader. Family members of both Ari and Sardar alleged that they were being framed and it was a conspiracy of the BJP.

Sandeshkhali has been on the boil since early this month following allegations of land grabbing and sexual abuse of women by TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his men. Women had hit the streets demanding the arrest of Shahjahan and his aides. Local villagers have alleged that police had turned a blind eye to the crimes for years.

“At least 43 FIRs related to sexual assault under section 376 of IPC have been lodged by police in Sandeshkhali in the last four years. Police have submitted charge sheet in 42 cases while investigation is going on in one case,” Kishore Datta, advocate general told the court.

Also Read: Sandeshkhali on edge as fresh protests break out

The bench, however, observed: “It is surprising that police took four years to file charge sheet in 43 FIRs. Four years is too long a period. The issue has bene boiling for quite some time and ultimately it has burst.”

Meanwhile, the police have arrested local TMC leader Ajit Maity, a day after he was removed from his local area party post after allegations of irregularities surfaced against him on Sunday.

“It is shameful that the TMC tried to use a direction of the Calcutta high court as a shield to cover up its own wrong doings. Never did the court gave any stay on Shahjahan’s arrest, which TMC leaders have bene claiming. Now that the clarification has come, those not related to the administration are saying that Shahjahan will be arrested. Is this expected from a democratically elected government?” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson.

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