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Snub to rape-slur judge
- n State seeks to distance Dhantola trial from Sengupta n Party penalises 67-year-old member

Calcutta, Sept. 15: The state government today sought transfer of the trial of the Dhantola rape-and-murder case, claiming erosion of authority of the judge following a complaint of rape against him.

'The judge, who is facing a charge of rape against him, has no authority to try a rape case. One of the victim girls of the Dhantola incident expressed lack of confidence in the judge,' said public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah, while moving Calcutta High Court.

The government wants the trial shifted from the court of Shyamal Sengupta, an additional sessions judge of the Ranaghat fast-track court, to a sessions judge's court at Krishnagar, both in Nadia district.

Safiullah also demanded a stay on the trial being conducted by Sengupta. 'The trial should be suspended until the court fixes the venue,' he said.

Justice P.N. Sinha refused a stay, saying Sengupta is at liberty to conduct the trial till November 20, when the government's trial-shift plea would come up for hearing.

Appearing for the 17 accused persons in the Dhantola case, Joymalya Bagchi criticised the role of the government and alleged that it was trying to transfer the case from Sengupta's court to shield a few influential political personalities of Nadia.

Last February, a group of miscreants waylaid at Dhantola two buses returning from a marriage party and allegedly murdered the driver, raped some women and looted their belongings. A CPM zonal committee member was arrested for his alleged involvement in the crime.

'The high court, after receiving the complaint against Sengupta, had conducted a probe and even after the inquiry report was placed before it, the high court had allowed the judge to continue his job,' Bagchi pointed out.

He claimed that the high court decision proved that there was no substantial evidence against Sengupta. 'So, it will not be proper to remove the case from judge Sengupta's court at this point because the trial is almost halfway through,' he added.

Bagchi also said that on the basis of the woman's complaint, police were carrying out an investigation. 'How can he (Sengupta) be punished now when the case is still being investigated' he asked.

Dipanwita Chakraborty, a widow and resident of Ranaghat, had lodged a complaint with the police, alleging that Sengupta had come to her house on June 6 this year and raped her while she was alone.

Dipanwita told the police in her complaint that Sengupta had come to her house to offer help in her legal battle against her husband Chandan, a CISF jawan posted in Assam.

About a year ago she won maintenance from her husband. Another case in which she is claiming the ornaments gifted to her during her wedding was being heard by Sengupta.

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