Midnapore, June 11: The CBI will ask the Supreme Court to shift the Chhoto Angaria case outside Bengal because it believes the ruling party is coercing witnesses and trial in the state would not be fair.
This is the first such request by the CBI in Bengal — a slap in the face of the ruling CPM, which will not be happy to join the ranks of Narendra Modi.
Judging the attitude of some witnesses and the manner in which the trial has been progressing, we took the decision to move the Supreme Court. We dont think a fair trial is possible here. So we will move a petition before the Supreme Court next week, a senior CBI officer said.
On January 4, 2001, seven persons were killed in a blast at Trinamul Congress supporter Bakhtar Mondals house at Chhoto Angaria in East Midnapore.
Thirteen people — all of them said to be CPM supporters — were arrested and a trial is on in a Midnapore court. Trinamul had blamed the CPM for the blast, while the ruling party said bombs stockpiled in Mondals house had exploded.
The attitude of the witnesses is quite suspicious. They have been deviating from their earlier stands under the ruling partys pressure and turning hostile in the witness box, denying what they had earlier confessed to interrogators, CBI lawyer T.K. Basu today told Abul Kuddus, second additional sessions judge of Midnapore court.
The CBI, which took over the probe from the CID in March 2001, had earlier alleged lack of co-operation from the local administration.
In 2005, the NGO Legal Aid Forum appealed to the Supreme Court to transfer the case to a court outside Bengal because of the administrations non-co-operation and threats from the ruling party.
At that time, the CBI had opposed the forums appeal, saying the trial could be shifted to Calcutta but not outside the state as that would inconvenience witnesses.
Asked about the U-turn and whether the witnesses couldnt still be threatened as they live in Bengal, the CBI counsel said: The witnesses are not co-operating because of pressures from certain quarters. A shift to another state would reduce the influence the ruling party has been exerting on the witnesses. Moreover, the CBI would bear their travel and lodging expenses and hence their stay can be extended outside the state. The shift of the trial of Gujarats Best Bakery case to another state yielded results.
The Supreme Court had ordered the 2002 riots case to be moved to Maharashtra on an appeal that justice would not be done in Modis Gujarat.
Trinamul MP Mukul Roy welcomed the decision: The CPM has always exercised influence on the judiciary and, in this case had threatened the witnesses. So, shifting the case to any other state should produce results.
A CPM state committee member who asked not to be named tried to play down the move, saying it was not unusual. Let the CBI make such an appeal. We want the truth to come out, he said.
According to the lawyer, the CBI will tell the Supreme Court that Krishna Bibi, one of the main witnesses, had told the CBI her husband died in the blast. But when asked by the judge on April 4, 2007, Krishna retracted, saying she could not identify her husbands photograph.