Bengal: Calcutta HC Directs NHRC to Form Committee To Look Into Post-Poll Violence

A five-judge bench warned the state government that obstruction may invite action under the Contempt of Courts Act.
Jun 19, 2021 | The Wire Staff

New Delhi: The Calcutta high court on Friday directed the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to constitute a committee to examine all cases of alleged human rights violations during post-poll violence in West Bengal.

A five-judge bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justices I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar observed that the state government has been denying the facts that have been placed on record by the petitioner Priyanka Tibrewal, a lawyer and BJP leader, therefore, an independent committee would need to look into the issue.

“It is the duty of the state to maintain law and order in the state and inspire confidence in the
residents of the state. Though action should have been taken by the state, but despite [the] matter being pending in court, apparently no concrete steps have been taken,” the court observed, according to LiveLaw.

The five-judge bench, which was hearing a bunch of PILs on the issue, said the committee will examine all complaints which the NHRC has already received or may receive. It could also visit the affected areas to register complaints and submit a comprehensive report to the high court about the present situation, the bench said.

The committee would also suggest the steps to be taken to ensure the confidence of the people so that they can peacefully live in their houses and also carry on their occupation or business to earn a livelihood, the bench said.

“The persons prima facie responsible for crime and the officers who maintained calculated silence on the issue, be pointed out,” the bench ordered, instructing that the matter would be taken up for hearing again on June 30.

The bench directed the state government to provide all logistical support to the committee wherever and whenever they wish to visit any place and to ensure there is no obstruction of any kind in this process.

“Such obstruction will be viewed seriously, which may entail action under the Contempt of Courts Act besides others,” the bench said in its order.

There have been several reports of post-poll violence by workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal since the assembly election results were announced on May 2. While a large number of alleged targets were BJP workers, the workers of the Left and other opposition parties have also been targeted.

The court ordered that the member secretary of State Legal Services Authority will be a member of the committee to be set up by the chairperson of the NHRC and a representative from the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission should also be included.

The bench observed that in a case where the allegation is that life and property of the residents of the state are in danger on account of alleged post-poll violence, the state cannot be allowed to proceed in the manner it likes.

Noting that the complaints required immediate action, the bench said “somehow from the facts as are available on record and are sought to be projected by the petitioners, such an action is missing.”

“It is the duty of the state to maintain law and order in the state and inspire confidence in the residents of the state,” the bench observed.

The bench said that complaints with regard to post-poll violence received by the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority (WBSLSA) have been tabulated in six different categories.

They are: (a) property vandalised/ looted/ damaged by miscreants, (b) threat by miscreants as a result of which the applicant(s) are out of his/their house and requires to be reinstated, (c) assault/sexual assault by miscreants, (d) grabbing/encroaching of property by miscreants, (e) shop/business forcefully closed by miscreants and (f) demand of ransom by miscreants.

It was mentioned in a report by the member secretary of WBSLSA that 3,243 persons had reported that they were the target of such violence until June 10.

The house of BJP worker Ramananda Koyal, at Diamond Harbour block 2. Koyal has alleged his house was ransacked by TMC workers. Photo: By arrangement.

The member secretary of the WBSLSA further mentioned that in a number of cases, the complaints were referred to the concerned superintendent of police or the police stations, but no response has been received.

Observing that the exercise of filing of affidavit and counter affidavit will continue, the bench said, “It may not lead us anywhere because state from the very beginning had been denying everything.”

“But the facts as have been placed on record by the petitioners and also as is evident little bit from the report dated June 3, 2021 filed by the Member Secretary of the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority, are different.”

The bench had on May 31 ordered the constitution of a three-member committee comprising an officer each from the NHRC, WBHRC and West Bengal State Legal Services Authority to monitor and coordinate the return of people, who were forced to leave owing to post-poll violence, to their homes at Entally assembly area in Kolkata.

The court had said that it is the duty of the state to ensure that the law and order situation is maintained.

On June 4, the five-judge bench directed competent authority to take appropriate steps for the rehabilitation of people, who were displaced owing to post-poll violence in the state, back to their homes immediately on receiving complaints.

“On receipt of the aforesaid complaints filed by the persons concerned in different districts in the State of West Bengal, the competent authority shall take appropriate steps for their rehabilitation immediately thereafter and report to this court on the next date of hearing,” the bench had directed.

The court had instructed that the affected persons can additionally send a copy of the complaints on the designated e-mail ID of the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority.