Monday, 30th October 2017

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Centre orders CBI probe into train crash

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  • Published 3.06.10

New Delhi, June 2: The UPA government today accepted Mamata Banerjee’s demand and ordered a CBI probe into the Jnaneswari Express tragedy, the decision coming within hours of her party sweeping the Bengal civic polls.

The probe has apparently been ordered under a section of the law that doesn’t require the consent of the state government, which had told the Centre two days ago that the CBI needn’t step in as the state CID was on the job.

“The investigation will be done by the CBI because the incident happened on railway property. It will be a joint probe,” a senior official of the Union home ministry said. Explaining “joint probe”, he said it would be headed by the CBI, with the Bengal CID and the railway police as “associates”. The notification for the CBI probe will be issued tomorrow.

Mamata suspected a political conspiracy in the disaster that killed 150 people. But Union home minister P. Chidambaram said the “needle of suspicion” pointed towards Maoists.

Publicly, however, the ministry claimed that it had the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s “consent”. “The state has consented,” the official stressed. G.K. Pillai, the Union home secretary, spoke to Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen and home secretary Samar Ghosh today, informing them about the decision.

The move came after the home department received a railway ministry letter saying the state’s consent wasn’t needed under Section 5 (1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which sets rules for CBI probes.

Trying to remove the impression of a U-turn, home ministry officials argued that they had sought the Bengal government’s consent earlier this week under Section 6A of the same act, which makes such concurrence mandatory.

Section 5 (1) states: “The central government may by order extend (the) powers and jurisdiction of (a) member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (in this case the CBI) for the investigation of any offences or classes of offences to any area (including railways areas) in a state.”

In Calcutta, home secretary Ghosh said a letter from the Union home secretary’s office had also reached Writers’ Buildings today. “I have received the letter and also talked to him (Pillai) on the matter.”

When it was pointed out that the CID was already probing the case, Ghosh said: “If it is found that the CBI will be probing the same issues and aspects of the sabotage, there will be no inquiry by the CID. Otherwise both inquiries may continue simultaneously.”

State police chief Bhupinder Singh almost echoed him, saying that even if the CBI conducts an inquiry, it sometimes seeks help from the state government. “We will provide them (the CBI) with assistance if they require. Sometimes, they start from the beginning, sometimes they pick up from the point till which the CID has completed its inquiry,” he said.