NHRC Forms Committee to Probe Post-Poll Violence in West Bengal

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The Calcutta High Court on Monday, 21 June, dismissed a plea filed by the West Bengal government on Sunday, 20 June, which sought to recall an order given by the same five-judge Bench, asking the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to visit the post-poll violence areas in the state.

As per the orders of the high court, chairperson of NHRC, retired Justice Arun Mishra, constituted a committee headed by member Shri Rajeev Jain on Monday.

The five-judge Bench – comprising acting Chief Justice Rajesh Jindal, Justice Indra Prasanna Mukherjee, Justice Soumen Sen, Justice Harish Tandon, and Justice Subrata Talukder had said that it cannot sit in appeal over its own orders and asked the state to place its contentions before the NHRC.

NHRC Committee to Probe Violence-effected Areas

The court said in its order, “We do not find any case made out for recall, modification or stay of order passed on Friday, 18 June. State can place its submissions and also place actions taken by it before NHRC. We are not sitting in appeal over orders passed by us. Application dismissed," Bar & Bench reported.

The committee has been formed to examine all previous or future complaints of post-poll violence received by the National Human Rights Commission.

Further, the committee will examine cases by visiting these areas and submitting a comprehensive report on the current situation to the high court. Steps to ensure confidence of the people over promises of a safe environment will also be undertaken.

The committee will also be required to highlight the persons, prima-facie, responsible for the crimes and the officers who maintained continued silence on the matter.

It is scheduled to start its inquiry immediately.

The West Bengal government had sought recall of the 18 June order, saying that the state wasn’t given adequate opportunity to place all facts on record, including the steps taken by the state government to address the post-poll violence.

Representing the state government, Advocate General Kishore submitted that the court should define what "post-poll violence" is.

Also Read: WB Govt Moves Calcutta High Court on Post-Poll Violence Order

He was quoted as saying, “Any violence cannot be called post-poll violence. We should be allowed to place further facts so that everything can be resolved in this court itself. I cannot say state won't take action. We have already taken action," Bar & Bench reported.

Also Read: WB Guv Slams CM for Silence on Post-Poll Violence, Govt Hits Back

Background

The 18 June order was passed after hearing a plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Priyanka Tibrewal on Sunday, who lost in the Assembly polls from Entally in Kolkata.

Tibrewal alleged that a number of people had fled their homes to save their lives from the post-poll violence and were unable to return home. She had added that the state had failed to maintain law and order and filed false affidavits to “save its neck".

The Bench had asked the NHRC to suggest “steps to be taken to ensure confidence of the people that they can peacefully live in their houses and carry on their occupation or business to earn their livelihood” and submit a comprehensive report by 30 June.

“In our view, this exercise of filing of affidavit and counter affidavit will continue. It may not lead us anywhere because the state from the very beginning had been denying everything, but the facts…are different,” the Bench had observed.

The court had also observed, “The Committee shall examine all the cases and, maybe, visit the affected areas and submit a comprehensive report to this court about the present situation, and also the steps to be taken to ensure confidence of the people, so that they can live peacefully in their houses and carry on their occupation or business to earn their livelihood. The persons prima facie responsible for crime and the officers who maintained calculated silence on the issue be pointed out.”

The High Court had ordered the formation of a three-member committee, during an earlier hearing on 31 May, to ensure that persons displaced by post-poll violence in West Bengal are able to return to their houses.

The three-member committee comprised Member Secretary of West Bengal State Legal Services Authority (WBSLSA), the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, and the NHRC, Bar & Bench reported.

A report to the court detailing the complaints received by the WBSLSA was then submitted. The Court went on to record the following about the report of the WBSLSA on 18 June.

“The number of persons reported to have suffered as per complaints received is 3,243. In a number of cases, the complaints were referred to the concerned police station but no response was received.”

Following which, the court proceeded to order NHRC intervention while directing the state to to provide necessary assistance to the NHRC committee to visit affected areas.

West Bengal had witnessed a spell of incidents of violence following the election results on 2 May, where the Trinamool Congress had a landslide victory of 213 votes out of 292 seats.

(With inputs from Bar & Bench)

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