Calcutta, Dec. 12: The high court today slammed the state administration for protecting policemen accused of killing a man in custody and questioned the rule of law in Bengal.
'Is there a rule of law pre-vailing in the state' a division bench of Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Mitra asked Howrah superintendent of police Akhil Roy.
The district police chief had failed to begin cases against four policemen ' including a former Bally police station officer-in-charge ' allegedly responsible for the death of an undertrial in the lock-up.
After the Howrah chief judicial magistrate issued arrest warrants against the four, they pleaded for anticipatory bail and got it, too, because public prosecutor Chinmoy Chowdhury did not oppose it.
Four plainclothesmen from Bally raided a house at Madhubati in Singur, Hooghly, 40 km from Calcutta, on February 18, 2002, and picked up Nitai Das from his house.
When his relatives went to Singur police station, officials there said they had no idea about his whereabouts.
Five days later, Nitai's relatives came to know that he was in the Bally police station. They went there the same day, but the police told them that he committed suicide on the night of February 22.
The family got a tip-off that he was beaten up under the supervision of the Bally officer-in-charge, Sunil Biswas. Three other officers ' Amal Das, Srimanta Banerjee and Anil Tarafdar ' were also allegedly present during the torture.
Nitai's mother Ashoka Das went to the Singur police station to lodge a complaint against the four, but officials there declined to accept it. She then filed a case in the Howrah chief judicial magistrate's court.
On August 5, 2004, the judicial magistrate issued the arrest warrants and asked the state to start criminal proceedings against them. Then the four moved the district sessions court for anticipatory bail.
Ashoka Das demanded cancellation of the bail order in the high court. The court cancelled it and asked the policemen to surrender before the Howrah court.
The accused then moved the Supreme Court, which also told them to surrender.
Sunil Biswas, now the officer-in-charge of Barasat, Banerjee, now in charge of Jagatballavpur in Howrah, Das, a subinspector in Bantra, Howrah, and Tarafdar, an assistant sub-inspector in Uluberia, Howrah, surrendered in the chief judicial magistrate's court on November 30 this year. It sent them to jail custody.
But the second part of the court's order, which asked the state to start criminal proceedings against the policemen, is yet to be carried out.
The four, in the meantime, have moved bail petitions before the high court.
Hearing their bail prayer, the judges realised that the police were purposely delaying the case. Last week, the division bench asked the Howrah police chief to appear before it and give reasons for the delay.
Today, the angry judges asked him to start the case immediately and depute an officer of deputy superintendent rank to probe Nitai's death.
The high court's intervention has prompted the government to change the public prosecutor handling the matter in the Howrah court.