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WB: Reports Prima Facie Suggest Ram Navami Violence was Pre-Planned, Observes Calcutta HC

Reserves Order on BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari's Plea for NIA Probe.
Calcutta HC

Calcutta HC. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: The Calcutta High Court on Monday reserved its order on West Bengal Leader of Opposition (LoP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Suvendu Adhikari’s Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea seeking a probe by National Investigating Agency (NIA)/Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incidents of violence which took place in the state during the Ram Navami procession.

Suvendu Adhikari filed a petition on March 31, seeking an NIA probe into clashes of March 30 at Shibpur in Howrah district and Dalkhola in North Dinajpur district. Subsequently, the Calcutta HC on April 3 sought a detailed report and video footage from the West Bengal government on clashes during the Ram Navami celebration. 

According to a report published in Live Law, the bench of Acting Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya reserved its order after hearing the arguments of the Advocate General (AG) Soumendra Nath Mookherjee and the counsels for the other petitioners that have moved similar pleas before the HC.

AG Mookherjee opposed the prayer for an investigation into the violence by the NIA as he submitted that the state police are already investigating the matter and an NIA probe can be ordered only if there is sufficient material and satisfaction of the Union government that it is a fit case for demanding NIA probe.

To this, Acting Chief Justice Sivagnanam orally remarked that the matter appeared to be a serious one as the reports prima facie (based on first impression) suggest that the violence was pre-planned and, therefore, a central probe agency would be better placed to probe the matter.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) appearing for the Union Government, on the other hand, said that if blasts have taken place and explosives have been used, then the NIA act is automatically attracted, thus becoming the Cantre’s prerogative in ordering an NIA probe suo moto (on its own motion).

After considering all the reports filed by authorities and the state government, the Court orally observed that if the police had to disperse the crowd using pellet guns and tear gas shells, shows that the matter was serious and that it may be a case of large-scale violence.

The court also asked the AG why the state report did not mention bombs being hurled when the same was covered in the media. However, the AG denied all allegations and said that allegations contained in the writ petitions regarding the bombing and houses being set on fire were baseless.

The report also states that the Court also heard the submissions of other counsel who submitted that the Chief Minister of the State, Mamata Banerjee, made statements dividing state areas based on religion. Another counsel submitted that the State Police conspicuously did not invoke the Explosive Substance Act to avoid falling into the scheduled offences. "Having heard the counsels for all the parties, the Court reserved its orders," the report read.

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