Calcutta, July 15: “Admit nothing and deny everything” does not figure in the law books but many lawyers treat it with the respect a flak jacket commands on the frontline.
So it was in Calcutta High Court today when it resumed hearing on a petition by Zarina Biwi seeking a CBI probe into the murder of three of her sons. One of those named in the FIR but not in the chargesheet is Manirul Islam, Trinamul MLA. The court today admitted Zarina’s petition for hearing in detail.
Soon after the petition came up this forenoon, Justice Dipankar Dutta made a fresh reference to a video-graphed speech purportedly made by Manirul on July 23 last year in Birbhum’s Sainthia.
Yesterday, when the judge had asked government counsel Samrat Sen whether he was aware of the speech, the lawyer had replied in the negative. Around 4.30pm yesterday, the judge had viewed the footage in the presence of lawyers from both sides.
Today, less than 20 hours later, Justice Dutta asked Sen: “You were present in my chamber yesterday when I was viewing the video footage. Can you remember the exact words that Islam had used in his speech?”
Sen: “I cannot recollect the exact words that were used in the speech.”
In a widely broadcast version of a speech by Manirul on the same day at the same place, 19 words had stood out because of an eerie reference to three deaths. “Ami Labhpurer bidhayak, payer tol diye — maiyatar opor jara atyachar korechhilo, tader teen jonke payer tol diye mere diyechhi (I am the MLA from Labhpur. I have trampled to death three of those who tortured the girl),” the tape showed Manirul as saying.
(Another lawyer on the state panel later explained why Sen might have found it difficult to recall the exact words.
“If Sen had said that he remembers what Manirul had said, it might have given an impression that he accepts the petitioner’s evidence to be genuine. Sen wanted to make it clear that he has total disregard for the footage that was handed over to the judge by the petitioner’s lawyer.”
The lawyer did not mention that the speech had other content also and it would have been hard to recall all the “exact” words.)
After Sen said he did not recall the exact words, Justice Dutta said: “Okay. Then I will have to ask some questions to the IO (investigating officer) of the case.”
Sen: “But I have a plea, My Lord. You may ask questions to the IO but it should be in camera. Otherwise, many secrets relating to the case would come out and the investigation will be hampered.”
Justice Dutta: “Okay.”
The judge asked those present — other than the IO, the lawyers of both sides, the counsel representing the CBI who attended in case any order related to the agency was issued and court officials — to leave the room.
Nearly an hour later, the lawyers and IO Debasish Ghosh, who is also the officer in charge of Labhpur police station in Birbhum, came out. Sen declined comment.
Subrata Mukhopadhyay, the counsel for the petitioner, said: “The judge asked the state government to file an affidavit on August 1. We will give our reply on August 6 and the case will be again heard on August 7.”
Mukhopadhyay added: “I have prayed before the judge to ask the SP of Birbhum to provide security to my client and her family. Accordingly, the judge asked the SP to take all security measures so that they can live peacefully.”