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Paul probe order Apathy of police points to depths of lawlessness: HC

Court to monitor speech inquiry

Calcutta, July 28: Calcutta High Court has asked Bengal police to register within 72 hours an FIR on a “hate speech” by Trinamul MP Tapas Paul — something the state government has refused to do for nearly a month.

The court also proposed to monitor the probe and keep the case pending. “I am sceptical about effective progress of investigation should the writ petition be disposed of,” Justice Dipankar Dutta said in the order.

The stinging order — bristling with the soaring words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a barrage of telling observations on the police and the State — cracked open an issue chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her aides had tried their best to bury.

Footage showing Paul threatening to shoot political opponents and unleash his boys to rape their families had surfaced on June 30. For 28 days, the political leadership and the administration refused to enforce the law, saying Paul had apologised “in the right spirit” and the matter was closed.

Justice Dutta, who concluded that Paul did deliver a “hate speech”, struck at the root of that defence. “To whom did he tender an apology? To his party or to the public, I asked? He (Paul’s counsel) was silent. Apart from tendering an apology to his party, nothing of worth has been shown to me that Mr Paul has tendered a public apology. If indeed a public apology had been tendered by Mr Paul at the site from where he delivered the hate speech and (if he) had shown remorse for his conduct, different considerations may have arisen,” Justice Dutta said.

Trinamul national spokesperson Derek O’Brien, who had uncorked the “right-spirit” logic after Paul’s letter of apology addressed “to All of you” was circulated, could not be contacted for comment.

The state government has the right to appeal the order — it has often exercised that option including at least one case that was once presided over by Justice Dutta. Trinamul all India general secretary Mukul Roy said tonight: “We will assess the order in detail and give our reaction after that.”

For the assessors, the 43-page order is unlikely to make happy reading.

Justice Dutta said in the order: “There has been a rise in shameful speeches delivered by politicians encouraging crime in this State, but in most cases the police has looked the other way. The apathy and indifference of the police not to swing into action immediately points to the depths of lawlessness that the State has touched. The present case is no exception.”

The SP of Nadia, where Paul delivered the speech, has so far been saying that the police are studying the complaint filed by a social activist, Biplab Kumar Chowdhury.

In his interim order, Justice Dutta did not leave any room for ambiguity.

“The inspector-in-charge, Nakasipara police station, shall immediately but not later than 72 hours of service of an authenticated website copy of this order upon him register an FIR on the basis of the complaint dated July 1, 2014, lodged by the petitioner,” the order said.

The order continued: “Having regard to the sensitivity involved, it would further be in the interest of justice to entrust the CID to investigate the complaint. The director-general of police shall issue appropriate instruction to DIG CID for free, fair, proper and meaningful investigation….

“Since investigation would be monitored by the court, the investigating officer shall not file the police report without the leave of the court,” the judge said, adding that on September 1, the investigating officer would have to submit a progress report.

The judge had heard two petitions. One was moved by an advocate, Subrata, seeking an order asking the police to initiate suo motu proceedings against Paul.

The judge dismissed the first petition, saying that although the police were empowered to arrest an offender without waiting for an FIR, it was their discretion whether to act suo motu. The court drew a distinction between “a mandatory statutory duty” and “statutory power conferred” on an official.

But the court admitted the second petition as the petitioner had already moved the police in vain.