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Egra blast: No NIA probe for now, CID to continue investigations, rules Calcutta High Court

FIR omits sections under Explosives Act, owner of cracker factory arrested from Odisha; BJP- Trinamul clashes in Murshidabad

Sougata Mukhopadhyay Calcutta Published 18.05.23, 08:30 PM
Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court File picture

“Oh God! So many bodies shredded to bits!”

That was the cry of shock and awe from Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court T.S. Sivagnanam after looking at pictures of the blast site at the Khadikul village in Egra, East Midnapore, during the course of a hearing of a PIL filed by Bengal Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari seeking a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the explosion at an illegal firecracker factory on Tuesday which killed nine persons and critically injured many more.


The Chief Justice’s Division Bench, comprising Justices Sivagnanam and Hiranmay Bhattacharya, however, dismissed Adhikari’s NIA plea and allowed the Bengal CID to continue its investigation in the case. The CID would also decide whether a case needs to be initiated under the Explosives Act, the court directed.

The court has sought a report from the CID on its progress in investigation and fixed a deadline of June 12, the next date of hearing of the case.

The Bench also dismissed Adhikari’s prayer for Central forces and directed the state government to deploy additional police forces in the area on account of the prevailing tension and law and order apprehensions in the aftermath of the blast. The court, however, added that the state would be at liberty to seek central forces if the ground situation deteriorates.

Accused arrested from Cuttack

Bengal police on Thursday arrested Krishnapada, alias Bhanu, Bag, owner of the illegal firecracker factory and the prime accused in the case, from a private hospital in Cuttack, Odisha. Bhanu had clandestinely fled to Cuttack after sustaining severe burn injuries from the explosion and got himself admitted at the hospital using fake identity documents.

Two of his relatives – son Prithwijit and nephew Indrajit – were also arrested from the same location by a special team of the state police with assistance from their Odisha counterparts. Incidentally, Prithwijit, too, sustained some injuries from the blast and was also undergoing treatment at the hospital, it was learnt.

Hospital sources said that Bhanu has sustained 80 per cent burns on his body and his condition was critical. Since the prime accused is indisposed, the Bengal police has left him in the hospital for treatment in the custody of the Odisha police and took transit remand for his son and nephew from a local court for bringing them back to Midnapore. The duo is likely to be produced before a Midnapore court on Friday.

Bhanu reportedly used a fake Aadhaar card, stating himself to be a resident of Balasore, to gain hospital admission. He told hospital authorities that he sustained the injuries from a cooking gas cylinder explosion at a wedding ceremony he was attending. Traces of chemical explosives on his body, unlikely to come from an LPG cylinder burst, gave him away and led suspicious doctors to alert the police.

BJP-TMC clashes in Murshidabad

In a separate but related development during the day, the BJP alleged that Trinamul-sheltered criminals attacked a protest rally which was organized in the Bhagawanpur area of Murshidabad against the Egra incident. Local BJP MLA Rabindranath Maity was at the helm of the rally. The party alleged that the attackers hurled crude bombs and even used firearms on them leading to the crowd getting dispersed.

Till reports last received, large scale panic prevailed in the area with the BJP threatening to set up a blockade if the police did not immediately arrest the perpetrators.

Rubbishing the charges, the TMC counter alleged that shots were, in fact, fired from the BJP rally and that a Trinamul worker sustained bullet injuries.

Explosives Act or No Explosives Act?

Hauling up the local police for allowing the illegal factory to operate under its nose, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had handed over probe responsibilities to the state CID within hours after the explosion while simultaneously stating that she had no objection to an NIA probe.

The omission of relevant sections of the Explosives Act in the FIR, which had only sections under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the state Fire Services Act, by the investigators was puzzling. Questions were asked on whether the state police were trying to defend the accused by slapping lenient sections except, maybe, the slapping of Section 304 of IPC which entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The High Court on Thursday directed that the CID would take a call on whether or not to add Explosive Act to its charge sheet based on evidence gathered during the course of its probe. The NIA would reserve the right to act as per law if sections of the Act were included by the current investigators, the court stated.

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