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Supreme Court questions Bengal plea against CBI probe in Sandeshkhali

ByAbraham Thomas
Apr 30, 2024 04:46 AM IST

The bench’s observation came after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought an adjournment for including some additional facts

The Supreme Court on Monday wondered why the West Bengal government was “protecting the interest” of some private individuals, as it questioned the state for appealing against the Calcutta high court order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe allegations of sexual assault and land grabbing against Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in Sandeshkhali.

The bench posted the matter for hearing in July. It, however, held that the pendency of the appeal will not impact the ongoing hearing in the high court. (HT File)
The bench posted the matter for hearing in July. It, however, held that the pendency of the appeal will not impact the ongoing hearing in the high court. (HT File)

“Why should the state protect the interest of private individuals?” a bench of justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta remarked, as it posted the matter to after summer break.

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The bench’s observation came after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal, sought an adjournment for including some additional facts. Singhvi requested the court for hearing the matter after two weeks and agreed that the pendency of this matter should not hold up proceedings before the high court.

“They (CBI) should not have any objection to the listing of this case. I am only seeking an adjournment for two weeks. This is an appeal where we are challenging certain findings against us. We have got very important information that may be relevant,” he said.

Read more: Mamata Banerjee claims central agencies may have planted arms recovered from Sandeshkhali

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, also appearing for the eastern state, said the petitioner was aggrieved by some comments made in the April 10 high court order. “There are comments against the state which is unfair even when the state has taken all possible action,” Gupta said.

The bench posted the matter for hearing in July. It, however, held that the pendency of the appeal will not impact the ongoing hearing in the high court. “Matter is adjourned after vacations. We record the statement of senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi that pendency of this proceeding will not be used as a ground for any purpose,” the bench said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, objected to the adjournment plea, saying: “They cannot have it both ways.”

On April 10, the high court directed CBI, which is already probing a case of attack on an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team in Sandeshkhali on January 5, to investigate allegations of sexual assault and land grabbing against TMC leaders, including now-suspended Shahjahan Sheikh, and submit a comprehensive report by May 2.

Sandeshkhali, a riverine delta comprising 16 village panchayat areas adjoining the Sundarbans in North 24 Parganas district, was roiled in violent protests by locals, primarily women, who accused ruling TMC leaders of sexually assaulting women and grabbing agricultural land and converting it into water bodies for pisciculture.

Read more: ‘Arrest Mamata, declare TMC a terror outfit’, demands BJP leader after CBI searches at premises of Sandeshkhali accused

On January 5, an ED team was attacked in Sandeshkhali when it had gone to raid the premises of now-suspended TMC strongman Shahjahan Sheikh in connection with an alleged ration scam. Shahjahan, who was on the run after the attack on the ED team, was arrested on February 29 by the West Bengal Police. He was later handed over to CBI.

Based on complaints from the villagers, the police have booked Shahjahan, and his aides, for various offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including gang-rape (Section 376D) and attempt to murder (Section 307).

The high court, which took up a suo motu (on its own) petition in the matter, ordered: “This court shall monitor the entire investigation and shall pass further orders after the reports as directed above are filed by CBI.” It posted the matter for hearing on May 2.

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