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HC rejects plea for larger CBI probe
- Nandigram firing case to be heard again three weeks later

Calcutta, March 26: The high court today turned down a plea for a CBI investigation into the mounting tension in Nandigram since January 3 and adjourned the police firing case for three weeks.

Advocate Kalyan Banerjee had wanted the court to order the CBI probe. “Since the March 14 police action, more than 27 people are missing. To proceed with its investigation, the CBI should have the liberty to register cases against the accused based on their findings,” Banerjee urged the court in his affidavit.

However, the division bench of Chief Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh refused to accept the argument. It would consider the matter three weeks later, “only after going through the affidavits (several have been filed by NGOs and lawyers who want to be party to the case) and the CBI report”.

On Thursday, the CBI had submitted to the court a report on the police firing that killed 14 people.

Today, the court neither prevented the bureau from going ahead with the inquiry nor made the contents of its report public. “We’ve asked the CBI to keep the report in its custody, in a sealed cover, and would consider the same after going through the affidavits,” the judges said.

The bench directed the CBI to preserve the evidence — documents and materials seized in the course of its inquiry, including the post-mortem reports of the 14 killed.

The chief justice had taken exception to the incident following a statement issued by governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi condemning it and ordered the CBI probe suo motu.

Advocate-general Balai Ray today submitted that the governor “should not be dragged into the Nandigram case”, to which the court concurred.

Appearing for the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, advocate Joymalya Bagchi pleaded that any statement by the injured that the CBI team records as evidence should be done in the presence of a judicial magistrate so that no witness can turn hostile under pressure.

The court turned down the plea.

Ranjan Roy, the CBI counsel, said the sleuths had the liberty to continue with their inquiry. “However, the court has made it clear that if we face any resistance or need any further assistance during the inquiry, we can appeal before the court and the bench may consider our demands,” Roy said.

According to legal experts, the division bench today maintained “status quo” on the proceedings as the Supreme Court had constituted a five-judge special bench to settle whether a high court had the authority to order a CBI probe without seeking the state government’s sanction.

The controversy arose during the hearing of a special writ petition moved by the Bengal government challenging an earlier high court order for a CBI probe into the alleged massacre in Chhoto Angaria.

In January 2001, CPM activists allegedly torched the house of Trinamul Congress supporter Abdul Rehman Mondol in West Midnapore’s Chhoto Angaria.

Trinamul claimed that 11 of its supporters were killed in the CPM attack and the bodies were smuggled out of the area.

The case is still pending before the five-judge bench.

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