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CBI holes in cops’ Nandi story

Calcutta, Dec. 17: The CBI’s “preliminary” report on the March 14 firing in Nandigram says the police did not have enough provocation to shoot.

Submitting the report in Calcutta High Court today, the bureau sought four months to submit the final report.

The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Ghosh gave two months. The “ final” report has to be submitted by February 15.

A CBI official from Delhi told The Telegraph: “The police firing was without much provocation. The distance between the field where the crowd had assembled and the policemen on the Bhangabera bridge was big. Even if the villagers hurled brickbats and bombs at the police, they wouldn’t have reached the cops.”

Bhangabera was one of the two places — the other being Adhikarypara — from where the police opened fire at villagers who tried to prevent them from entering Nandigram.

“Practically, it was impossible for the villagers to throw brickbats and bombs at policemen standing on the bridge. There was no threat to the policemen, as claimed by them,” the CBI official said.

Some of the constables who had fired apparently told the CBI sleuths that even before setting foot on Nandigram they got the impression they might be ordered to shoot.

The CBI official said: “The officers who ordered the firing possibly made up their mind to shoot even before entering Nandigram as they knew the sort of resistance they might face.”

A large number of policemen and villagers were yet to be examined, the CBI told the court.

Sources said the preliminary report has pointed out the disparity between the actual number of bullets fired and the figure mentioned by the police in their FIR. “Many people sustained bullet injuries, but the police claimed that only a few rounds were fired,” a CBI official said.

The bureau needed time to confirm whether “outsiders” in police uniform also opened fire. “Many villagers who sustained bullet injuries spoke to us about ‘outsiders’,” the official said.

The counsel for the high court bar association, Shaktinath Mukherjee, pleaded with the court to speed up the probe. “The firing took place eight months ago and the CBI started its full-fledged investigation last month. It is already very late,” he said.

On November 16, the court gave the CBI a month to submit the preliminary report. The judges took 15 minutes to read the 15-16 page document.

Neither the lawyers wanted to know about its contents nor did the judges inform them about it.

Ordering the CBI probe, the court had called the March 14 firing “unconstitutional” and “unjustified”. The state challenged that part of the order in the Supreme Court.

A source said the bench did not comment on the “preliminary report” as it was awaiting the apex court’s verdict.

The Supreme Court will hear the case again on January 28. In its interim order, the apex court restrained the CBI from registering a case against any of the accused till the disposal of the case.

“What could the high court say today? It had to either direct the CBI to register cases against the accused or stop the probe,” a lawyer said.

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