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Citing police, ED petitions in court, Abhishek blames judiciary for delay in arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan

'Sheikh Shahjahan is being guarded by the judiciary, and I want to put this on record, so that Sandeshkhali stays in the limelight... Trinamul Congress did not spare Partha Chatterjee, Jyotipriya Mullick, who is Sheikh Shahjahan?'

Arnab Ganguly Calcutta Published 25.02.24, 09:14 PM
Abhishek Banerjee.

Abhishek Banerjee. File picture.

Trinamul all India general secretary and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday blamed the judiciary for the delay in the arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan, the fugitive Trinamul Congress North 24-Parganas zilla parishad functionary and leader from Sandeshkhali.

“Sheikh Shahjahan is being guarded by the judiciary, and I want to put this on record, so that Sandeshkhali stays in the limelight, so that Sandeshkhali continues to burn,” Abhishek said on Sunday while talking to mediapersons during an event. “Trinamul Congress did not spare Partha Chatterjee, Jyotipriya Mullick, who is Sheikh Shahjahan?”

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A team from the Enforcement Directorate had gone to Sandeshkhali on January 5, looking for Shahjahan in connection with the ration scam in which he is a co-accused along with former minister Mullick.

On January 16, Justice Jay Sengupta of the Calcutta high court had ordered a joint probe by the Bengal police and CBI, following a petition filed by the ED, days after its officials were attacked, to hand over the probe to the central agency.

“After what happened on January 5, the alleged attack on the ED team they filed an FIR. The Calcutta high court had ordered a special investigation team with officers from both the state police and the CBI,” said Abhishek. “Some days later ED sought a stay which was granted by the high court. The high court gave the stay order, they have tied the hands of the state police, not Mamata Banerjee.”

It has been reported that the ED and the state police then filed separate petitions before a division headed by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam, seeking permission to investigate the case independently. The Trinamul second-in-command, however, did not mention this.

Also, the division bench stayed the proceedings and probe by the state police in an order issued on February 7. It also stalled investigation into the case till the next hearing which is scheduled for March 6. The central agencies ED and CBI were given permission to oppose any anticipatory bail plea filed by Shahjahan.

A section of the lawyers in Calcutta contested the Trinamul all India general secretary’s claim regarding the high court order, saying he was indulging in peddling half-truths. CPM Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya dismissed Abhishek’s claims as a pack of lies.

“The high court has never said that he cannot be arrested by the state police,” said Bhattacharya. “There is no link between the ED's plea and the complaints made by the women in Sandeshkhali. Why is the police not taking action on the basis of the complaints made by the women? This is a web of lies being spread by Trinamul since women are now out on the streets.”

Another advocate in the Calcutta high court Sabyasachi Chatterjee said, “The police can make an arrest on the basis of disclosure of non-cognizable offence. In this case a person has been accused of rape therefore the police must arrest him. It appears the police is not interested in exercising its right to arrest.”

While Shahjahan has gone into hiding, his turf has erupted with violent protests led by women, who have accused the Trinamul leader and his henchmen of forcibly dispossessing rightful owners from their farmlands that have been converted into ponds for pisciculture and sexual exploitation of the women.

Abhishek asked whether the high court stayed the proceedings for the BJP to grab footage.

“Sandeshkhali is in the limelight now. Even if I accept that the women in the area were scared why did the local CPM and BJP leaders remain silent? What stopped them from speaking out?” asked Abhishek. “The CPM’s Nirapada Sardar is a Sandeshkhali resident and was the local MLA till 2016 why did he not raise the issue? There are several photographs of Suvendu Adhikari with Shahjahan. He joined the BJP in 2020. Why was he silent all this while?”

Abhishek said the court has to give the state police time to investigate and take action in any case.

“The central agency probe into the Saradha case was ordered on May 9, 2014. Almost ten years are over. The trial has not even started yet. If the central agencies can get years to probe a case, why is the state police being denied the same opportunity?” asked Abhishek.

The second-in-command in the Trinamul said, the police arrested Shibprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, two associates of Shahjahan, as soon as the complaints were received.

“It was the state police which had arrested Sudipto Sen (main accused in the Saradha case) from Kashmir, much before the central agencies got involved,” he said. “Had the high court empowered the state police Shahjahan would have been behind bars by now.”

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