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Calcutta High Court orders CBI probe into alleged crimes against women, forcible land-grab in Bengal's Sandeshkhali

Calcutta HC to monitor Sandeshkhali probe, directs CBI to file report on illegal conversion of agricultural land for pisciculture

PTI Calcutta Published 10.04.24, 01:58 PM
Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court File picture

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday ordered a CBI investigation into allegations of crimes against women and land grabbing in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali, which had witnessed protests over the issues.

Stating that the investigation will be monitored by the court, a division bench presided by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam directed the CBI to file a comprehensive report on the alleged illegal conversion of agricultural land into water bodies for pisciculture after conducting a thorough inspection of revenue records and physical inspection of land alleged to have been converted.

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The court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate allegations of crimes against women and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali and submit a comprehensive report to it on the next date of hearing.

The bench, also comprising Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, directed that the matter will be heard again on May 2, the date on which the CBI was asked to file the report.

ED officials were attacked on January 5 by a mob when they went to Sandeshkhali to search the premises of now-suspended Trinamul Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh in connection with a ration distribution scam case.

Passing the judgement, the court observed that an impartial inquiry is required to be done by an agency which has the power to probe the criminal angle stated to be involved.

"In the interest of justice and fair play and for expeditious consideration of the various complaints and allegations, an impartial inquiry is required to be conducted," the court said.

The state was directed to provide the required support to the agency.

Noting that the petitioners had prayed for the constitution of an enquiry committee to be headed by a retired judge of the high court, the division bench said that it decided to order an investigation by the CBI considering the nature of allegations involving crimes against women and grabbing of land of locals, including those belonging to Scheduled Tribes and the volume of complaints placed before it by one of the petitioners.

Around 600 complaints in the form of affidavits, including those of alleged sexual atrocities, land grabbing and other crimes such as assault and destruction of property, had been submitted before the court by petitioner-lawyer Priyanka Tibrewal.

Directing that the copies of the affidavits filed by the petitioner be forwarded to the CBI, the court said that if the complaints disclose cognisable offences, the agency will proceed in accordance with the law.

The bench directed that the parties in the matter, which involved a suo motu motion by the court over allegations of sexual atrocities on women and the land grab of people belonging to Scheduled Tribes along with a few PILs, can submit their complaints within a fortnight to the CBI.

It said that to ensure confidentiality, the investigating agency will create a dedicated portal or email ID for the registration of complaints.

The court said it decided to hand over to the CBI the probe with regard to allegations and complaints of people of Sandeshkhali as the central agency is already probing the attack on ED officials there.

The court directed the district magistrate of North 24 Parganas to give adequate publicity of the order in the area and issue a public notice in newspapers in Bengali script.

The court said the CBI will have the power to require any person, organisation, police, government authority, and others to furnish information on matters which may be useful or relevant to the matter.

Ordering installation of CCTV cameras in sensitive places and LED street lights in Sandeshkhali within 15 days, the court directed the state government to sanction necessary funds.

The bench asked the CBI to issue necessary direction to the state police as to how and in what matter protection to the victims and witnesses can be granted without insisting on the strict procedures stipulated in the 'witness protection scheme'.

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