A five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court asked the West Bengal government on Friday to file an affidavit in three days, apprising it of the present law and order situation in the state. Taking cognisance of a public interest litigation (PIL) that said life and liberty of people in Bengal are in danger owing to post-poll violence, the bench directed advocate general for the state, Kishore Dutta, to specify in the affidavit the names of areas where violence broke out, and the steps taken to prevent or control it.
The court will hear the PIL again on May 10.
BJP leaders and supporters in Bengal have been alleging that many party workers have been killed, raped, assaulted brutally and their houses set on fire across the state in post-poll violence. They have accused TMC cadres of carrying out the attacks and alleged that police were not doing anything to provide them protection. Other opposition parties like the Left and Congress too have made similar allegations. After taking oath as chief minister for a third term on Wednesday following a sweeping election victory for her party on May 2, Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee promised to monitor the law and order situation in the state. But she later accused the BJP of trying to create communal tension, especially in areas where it has won.
Petitioner Anindya Sundar Das, a lawyer, alleged that there has been widespread violence in the state and 11 people had died till May 4. The PIL said that the police were inactive while such incidents were taking place. The plea also stated that a large number of people have fled their homes because of attacks and no attempts have been made by the administration to prevent that. It also said that a massive amount of fake news on the issue was floating about and that had also provoked disturbance in various places.
“The present law and order situation in the State of West Bengal post assembly election results is quite alarming. Amidst Covid-19, this kind of heinous activities by different political parties has become a nightmare for the people,” the petition said.
The matter was initially taken up by a division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee, which then referred it to a larger bench for hearing after lunch recess.
Experts said that since the PIL also urges for the deployment of central forces in disturbed areas, the matter was taken up by according it the highest importance.
“Since this matter involves huge mass interest and deals with constitutional governance and this matter is very serious, therefore, such a bench has been formed,” retired Justice Ashok Ganguly said.
The PIL also appealed for the formation of a special investigation team (SIT) under the court’s supervision.
Apart from Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, the five-judge bench also had Justice IP Mukerji, Justice Harish Tandon, Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Subrata Talukdar.
The judges asked the advocate general what violence took place and about the role of the police.
The advocate general said that till May 3 model code of conduct (MCC) was in force and thus law and order administration was under the Election Commission (EC). He also said that a detailed report had been shared with a representative of the union ministry of home affairs.
(With agency inputs)