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White-ant lie costs cop job

The West Bengal government has been forced to take action against a senior police officer linked to an infamous custodial-death case, in which the disappearance of key documents had been blamed on “hungry white ants”.

The government, that had invoked the wrath of the court by claiming that the records of Debashis, alias Babai Biswas, had been eaten up by white ants, disclosed on Friday that then deputy superintendent of police Avijeet Sengupta, now additional superintendent, Birbhum, has been suspended and his promotion put on hold.

The disclosure was made by state advocate-general Balai Ray in the court of Chief Justice G.B. Pattanaik, Justices U.C. Banerjee and K.G. Balakrishnan. Roy also assured the court that the trial would be conducted “expeditiously”. The apex court recorded the statement of the advocate-general and disposed of the petition. The judges, however, kept the records and said that if amicus curiae Krishan Mahajan found any lapses, he could bring them to the Supreme Court’s notice. The apex court also said the trial court in Calcutta had the power to bring any other accused to book.

On September 20, the court had hauled up the West Bengal government for gross negligence in the custodial-death case. “The police officer (Sengupta) should have been suspended and re-instated if he were acquitted... (It is) delinquent... on the part of the administration to allow him to continue. We are going to summon the chief and home secretaries… Let them explain what sort of police administration is this,” the judges had observed.

Amicus curiae Mahajan told the court on Friday that Avijeet Sengupta had not been suspended, though he was facing criminal trial for allegedly “fabricating evidence in the case of the custodial death of 22-year-old Babai Biswas”. At this, the advocate-general clarified that the officer had already been suspended.

Biswas had been picked up on the night of April 8, 1997, by the Thakurpukur police and was brought back home dead the next day. Doctors conducting the post-mortem had told the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission that the medical report had termed Biswas’ death “natural”, under pressure from deputy superintendent Sengupta. The two FIRs filed against Biswas, accusing him of committing a dacoity, were also said to be false.

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