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Stronger charge in lodge owner death

- Case to be tagged with Howrah complaint
Sumit Naha
Asish Manna

Bidhannagar police moved court and received permission on Wednesday to add the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder to the allegations against some Trinamul Congress activists in connection with the unnatural death of lodge owner Sumit Naha.

Besides adding Section 304 of the IPC to the charges, the chief judicial magistrate of the Barasat court also accepted the police’s plea to forward the case to the Howrah commissionerate, where Naha’s manager Asish Manna had registered a complaint of assault and criminal intimidation against former Trinamul ward president Dipak Shaw.

Section 304 is non-bailable and carries a minimum punishment of 10 years.

Shaw is accused of targeting Manna for not reserving a room for him to use as his pleasure den and later threatening Naha. Footage from a CCTV camera at Bridge Lodge in Howrah shows a person resembling the Trinamul leader checking the occupancy register.

Officers at the Bidhannagar police commissionerate had on Tuesday cited “jurisdiction issues” as the reason for not starting a probe into the allegations made by Naha’s family that he died of cardiac arrest triggered by threat calls and harassment.

On Wednesday, the police blamed the “delay” in starting a probe on the “delay in lodging a complaint” by Naha’s family. “We did not have a complaint to act on,” an officer said.

Naha, 49, was found lifeless in a chair in the living room of his Baguiati home early on Monday. His family lodged a complaint at Baguiati police station on Tuesday morning.

Mother Manju alleged that he died because of threat calls from Shaw and others after he refused to withdraw the complaint his manager had lodged against them at Golabari police station in Howrah.

Other than starting a case of unnatural death, Bidhannagar police had done little to probe the allegations by Naha’s family until Tuesday evening.

The same officer who had said on Tuesday evening that it was for the Howrah police to “probe” the allegations revealed on Wednesday morning that his team had “analysed call details” and found that the last call Naha received was at 10.55pm on Sunday.

“The call was made by one of the accused, Riaz,” the officer said.

He also said that manager Manna’s statement had been recorded. Manna had lodged his complaint of assault and criminal intimidation against Shaw on June 20. He mentioned in the complaint that Shaw, who would spend most of his time at a Trinamul office in front of the lodge, had asked him to reserve a room for him and his supporters to use as a pleasure den whenever they wanted.

Howrah police allegedly didn’t act on the complaint other than summoning lodge owner Naha to record his statement. Naha started getting threat calls after he backed Manna’s allegation. “Shaw and his men threatened to target my son if he did not force his manager to withdraw the complaint. My son could not take the pressure,” Manju alleged.

Howrah police said on Wednesday that raids were underway to arrest Shaw and Riaz. “Their mobile phones are switched off. If the court tags the Bidhannagar case with ours, we will investigate Naha’s death as well,” a senior officer said.