| A candle burns at the vigil outside St Xavier’s College. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Oct. 16: Rarely has the courtroom heard anything like this before: “Darun, darun (excellent, excellent)”.
For a government deaf to the people’s voice, the words will ring in its ears long after the dust settles down.
The unparalleled expression of public approval broke through the courtroom code of silence today when Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe into Rizwanur Rahman’s death.
Justice Soumitra Pal termed the just-concluded CID investigation “faulty”, “not just and proper” and “not in accordance with law”.
The judge said the state government had informed the court that the CID was conducting an inquiry under Section 175 of the CrPC and since it was only an inquiry, and not an investigation, it had not registered a case.
“However, under this section, an investigation has to be launched, not an inquiry, and it is mandatory to register a case, which the CID had not done,” Justice Pal said. “So the entire process of inquiry that the CID has launched is not in accordance with law. Summoning people for questioning is investigation, not inquiry. This is why I am handing over the case to the CBI.”
He also added that under the circumstances, the CID probe would simply amount to “killing time”. The court asked the CBI to submit a “preliminary report in a sealed cover” within two months.
The central agency is not expected to perform miracles — the state home secretary later said he found “little difference” between inquiries by the CBI and the CID.
But the way the 500-strong spectators — against the usual 50 — responded showed how little faith they have in the state apparatus. As soon as the judge pronounced the order, the crowd broke into applause, unable to contain the loud exclamations of approval.
Justice Pal turned red in the face and lawyers braced for a rebuke as silence is mandatory when the judge speaks. But the judge waited for five minutes for the voices to subside.
He then referred to Prasun Mukherjee and said: “The court prima facie holds that the police commissioner should not make such comments (that Rizwanur committed suicide) before carrying out a detailed investigation.”
In his interim order, the judge said Article 21 gave people the right to move court seeking “justice” and “impartial investigation”. “In this case, the petitioners (Rizwanur’s mother and elder brother) felt that the CID inquiry would not be impartial. Therefore, their petition is maintainable.”
The judge asked the respondents, including five police officers and Rizwanur’s father-in-law Ashok Todi, to file affidavits by November 30 and asked the petitioners’ lawyer, Kalyan Banerjee, to file his reply by December 10.
After the court’s order, state advocate-general Balai Ray said: “We are not going to appeal. But we may appeal against labelling the CID inquiry illegal.”
At Writers’ Buildings, home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said: “The government has two options. One is to appeal against the order to keep the CID inquiry operationalised. The other is to hand over the case, along with the relevant papers, to the CBI,” he said. “The decision to appeal has to be political. But we are seeking legal advice.”
He conceded that if the government didn’t go in appeal, “it will have to hand over all CID papers to the CBI. Once the CBI takes over, the CID cannot carry out a parallel probe”. The judicial inquiry will continue.
Ray said the CBI probe would not stop the government from taking action against the police officers. “Action hobei (will be taken), but I cannot say if it will happen before or after the Pujas. A process is on for taking action.”
Asked whether police chief Mukherjee should be removed, the home secretary said: “His removal is not directly related to the case.”