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Minister bail blow after mix-up

Calcutta, Oct. 6: The high court today withdrew its order granting anticipatory bail to state minister Narayan Biswas following detection of a procedural mistake.

The division bench of Justices Aloke Kumar Basu and S.P. Mitra decided to hear the matter again tomorrow after the counsel appearing for the complainants alleged that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government misled the court and suppressed facts while obtaining the bail order in favour of Biswas.

Biswas, along with other co-accused, moved the high court after the district judge of South Dinajpur issued an arrest warrant against him for his alleged involvement in a case of rioting and torching 22 houses at Ratanpur village in erstwhile West Dinajpur in 1988. This is the first time a Left Front minister moved the high court seeking anticipatory bail. Biswas, has been given full charge of cottage and small-scale industries department as the cabinet minister for the department, Bansagopal Chowdhury, has resigned after being elected to Lok Sabha from Asansol.

Two separate matters had been included in the daily list of cases of the division bench of the court today. In the first matter, one Riazuddin Sheikh and others prayed for anticipatory bail while in a separate case, one Narayan Biswas and another person sought anticipatory bail.

When the first matter came up for hearing, a government panel lawyer, Minati Gomes, appeared for the petitioners and there was no one on behalf of the respondents to oppose the bail prayers. The division bench granted the bail prayer of Sheikh and others as the government lawyer did not oppose the plea. Narayan Biswas, the minister's name, also featured in the list of 'others'.

The next case, in which Biswas and another person figured, was strongly opposed by advocate Arunava Ghosh who wrongly assumed that he was opposing the bail plea of the minister. He told the judges that Biswas' bail plea had been rejected by a lower court and that a warrant of arrest had been issued in this case. After hearing the argument, the division bench rejected the bail plea.

Later in the afternoon, Ghosh realised that the Narayan Biswas and another, whose bail prayer he had opposed, were different persons and that Biswas is accused in another incident of rioting at Murshidabad.

Ghosh then rushed to the department and found that the name of the minister had been placed among the list of accused in the matter of Riazuddin Sheikh and others.

Ghosh met Justice Basu in his chamber and narrated the whole story, alleging that the court had been misled and the state lawyer suppressed the fact that police had already framed charges against the minister. 'Neither did the state inform the court that a warrant of arrest order had already been issued against the minister, Biswas,' Ghosh told the court. After hearing him, Justice Basu, senior judge of the bench, decided not to sign the bail order and decided on a re-hearing on Friday. Soon after, minister Biswas said at Writers' Buildings that if the party asked him to resign in the present situation, 'I will do so'. Biswas was among the delegates to the 18th party Congress in Delhi this year.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also avoided making a direct comment, saying: 'Let us first see the court order.'

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