Calcutta, Jan. 19: The Bengal governor today reportedly called up the state police chief over the alleged police atrocity on a woman in Parui, and a division bench headed by the chief justice of Calcutta High Court has initiated proceedings on its own on the charge.
This is the first time in recent memory that two constitutional authorities have acted - albeit independent of each other - over an allegation whose gruesome nature stands out even in a state inured to political violence.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi is learnt to have phoned G.M.P. Reddy, the director-general of police, after a BJP-led delegation complained to him about the assault on the 22-year-old woman in Birbhum, allegedly by the police and two Trinamul leaders on Saturday night.
The Calcutta High Court division bench, headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, decided on initiating suo motu proceedings in the case.
The governor's initiative drew attention because Tripathi, an RSS-BJP veteran and a stickler for rules and procedures, had been sticking to the textbook in his dealings with the Trinamul government till now.
Even in the face of a popular backlash against Abhijit Chakrabarti, the governor picked him for Jadavpur vice-chancellor on the basis of a shortlist and ignored the appeals of the BJP. Chakrabarti has resigned since then.
But the alleged inhuman treatment of the lady, who has said she was slashed with razor blades and nettle leaves were rubbed on her private parts, prompted the governor to step in.
"We informed the governor about the atrocities on the woman from the minority community.... He called up the DGP in front of us and sought the suspension of the policemen," state BJP president Rahul Sinha, who led the five-member delegation to Raj Bhavan, told reporters after coming out.
Raj Bhavan sources confirmed that the governor had spoken to the DGP in the presence of the BJP delegation. But the claim that the governor had asked for the suspension of the policemen could not be independently verified.
The sources said the governor had sought a report from the DGP on the Parui incident. Repeated calls from this newspaper to Reddy's cellphone did not elicit a response.
"The governor was moved by the incident the way Gopalkrishna Gandhi was affected by the 2007 Nandigram firing and termed the incident cold horror.... This marks a deviation from the way he has been handling the affairs till now," said a state government official.
State education minister Partha Chatterjee said there was no harm if the governor had stepped in. "The governor can intervene but the steps that he suggests would have to be routed through the state administration. The police have already started taking action. We are looking into the matter," said Chatterjee.
Sources said the Parui officer-in-charge had been benched after the uproar.
The prod from the governor's house was not the only moment of discomfort for the Mamata Banerjee government as the matter also raced to the high court.
Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya produced copies of Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph to raise the matter before the division bench.
"Yes, I am aware of the fact. I have seen in the newspapers," Chief Justice Chellur said.
Bhattacharyya asked the chief justice: "Do you not think that the court should take cognisance and initiate suo motu proceedings?"
Chief Justice Chellur said: "Submit your papers and other relevant documents, if any, to the registrar-general of the court today. This court is hearing other matters today. So the matter will be heard another day."
When Bhattacharyya asked whether the division bench was taking cognisance of the matter, the chief justice had a brief word with the co-judge, Justice Jaymalya Bagchi, and said: "Yes."