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Cell death summons on Bengal duo

New Delhi, Sept. 20: Upbraiding the Bengal government for gross negligence in a custody death case, the Supreme Court today summoned the state chief secretary and home secretary to be present in person on November 11 to explain the state of affairs in the police administration.

A division bench of Justice G.B. Pattanaik and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued the order after the amicus curiae, Krishan Mahajan, said: “Key police officer, deputy superintendent of police Avijeet Sengupta, has not been suspended even though he is facing criminal trial.” Sengupta is charged with “fabricating evidence in the custodial death of a 22-year-old young man, Babi Biswas, the only child of his parents”.

Biswas was picked up on the night of April 8, 1997, by the police and was brought dead the next day. The doctors who conducted the post-mortem had stated before the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission that a false medical report saying Biswas had died a natural death was submitted under pressure from DSP Sengupta.

Mahajan pointed to a newspaper report that the then home minister and the present chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had announced in the Assembly that Biswas was an undertrial, whereas no trial ever took place.

Justice Pattanaik took to task the state CID DSP, Bhaskar Deb Banerjee, who was present in the court today. “The very first action you take in any such case is to suspend the police officer concerned,” he observed.

The court asked the government to explain why no action had been taken in four years since the report of the state human rights commission.

The Supreme Court has suo motu converted a letter of the victim’s late father Amal Narayan Biswas into a public interest litigation.

Mahajan told the court that the DSP Sengupta (then of Jadavpur) placed his defence on an affidavit and two FIRs filed against Biswas. The amicus curiae pointed to the state human rights commission’s report that the FIRs were false. The complainant named, one Babua Chakraborty, had denied ever filing the FIR.

On the police statement that records were damaged in “water” and “white ants” had eaten up the records, Mahajan referred to the human rights commission’s annual report (1997-98) that expressed dismay over the manner the police keep records. Several pages were always kept blank so that they could be filled up according to “convenience” and according to “rules”. For example, a police officer on duty could be shown as “out” even while he was present.

“The police officer (Sengupta) should have been suspended and then re-instated if he were acquitted.... He is continuing to serve.… What kind of police administration is this in West Bengal...,” the judges observed while issuing the summons.

The late father of the victim had said in his letter that the boy had come home from office about 4 pm and did not go out till the police came to pick him up in the night.

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