Submit reply to NHRC report on violence by July 26: Calcutta HC to state

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted time till July 26 to the state government to submit its reply to the final report submitted by a committee of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that was put together to inquire into alleged incidents of post-poll violence. The matter will be heard by the five-judge Bench after the submission of the government’s reply on July 28.

The Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justices I.P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar, said that a ‘final opportunity’ was being granted to the state to file its affidavit in response to the NHRC report and no further extension shall be granted.

Reacting sharply on the report on alleged post-poll violence, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters on Thursday, “Nothing happened here. Whatever had happened took place when law-and-order in the state was in the domain of the Election Commission. I took oath on May 5 and changed the police set-up. The BJP has killed our people in the seats they won. One of the members of the National Human Rights Commission is a BJP member and he is saying what the BJP told him to say.”

On July 13, the NHRC had submitted a 50-page report to the High Court after probing alleged incidents of violence across the state since the results of the Assembly polls were declared. The panel, in its report, had termed the alleged incidents as “retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party”.

During the hearing on Thursday, senior counsel Kapil Sibal had apprised the Court that Annexure I, Volume 8 of the NHRC report had not been submitted to the State government. He sought leave of the court to permit the disclosure of Annexure I so as to enable him to file a reply.

Advocate Subir Sanyal, appearing for the NHRC, informed the court that the concerned annexure contains the names of alleged rape victims and details of spot investigation conducted by the panel pertaining to rape allegations. As a result, the annexure had not been submitted to protect the interests of the rape victims.

Advocate Sanyal further said, “We have to consider that the state police authorities are threatening the victims. It will jeopardise their safety if Annexure I is made public.”

Taking note of the concern raised, the Bench had enquired from senior advocates Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi as to why the aforementioned affidavit was required when they had access to the master database containing the details of all the complaints of the victims, including their contact details. The Bench observed that it would not permit the disclosure of Annexure I as of now till a determination has been made as to its contents.

The bench said, “We reject the plea of the State of West Bengal for copy of Annexure I which is part of the NHRC report. This is being rejected because it holds names of sexual assault victims”

During the hearing on Thursday, senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for one of the petitioners, contended that the constitution of an independent investigating agency was the need of the hour. He said, “Today the state whose inaction has triggered the entire litigation wants to now investigate on their own. An independent agency is called for. The state has been complicit in many instances.”

However, Singhvi submitted that the NHRC report was politically motivated and it contains various discrepancies as a result of which it cannot be given due credence. Pointing out one such discrepancy, the counsel noted, “The hand written complains written in Bengali, does not match the synopsis provided by the NHRC report”.

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