Post-poll violence: SC to hear final arguments in Bengal plea on Sept. 28

The appeal is against the Calcutta High Court’s decision to hand over the cases to the CBI.

The Supreme Court on Monday scheduled West Bengal’s appeal against the decision of the Calcutta High Court to hand over post-poll violence cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for final disposal on September 28 as the first case of the day.

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A Bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose asked the parties to complete all pre-hearing formalities, including filing of documents, etc, by Friday.

The court decided to go ahead and hear the final arguments on September 28 as the respondent parties, some of them represented by senior advocates like Harish Salve and Mahesh Jethmalani, were already present in the hearing on caveat.

During the brief hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal began with a submission that the victim in one of the murder cases was alive.

Justice Bose, after a consultation with Justice Saran, asked whether the CBI and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) were doing an investigation or an enquiry.

Mr. Sibal clarified that the CBI had been entrusted cases of murder and rape while other cases were with the SIT, which was monitored by a judge.

At this point, Justice Saran, the lead judge on the Bench, asked Mr. Sibal how long he would take to complete his submissions.

“Two or three hours,” Mr. Sibal replied.

Justice Saran said that then it would be better to hear the case continuously without any interruption on another day as the first case of that day. The parties consented to September 28.

In the previous hearing on September 13, West Bengal had accused a committee appointed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to look into “post-poll violence” of “apparent bias”.

The appeal challenges a five-judge Bench judgment of the Calcutta High Court transferring the investigation of post-poll violence cases, involving murder and rape, to the CBI. The High Court, on August 19, had directed the State to immediately pay compensation to the victims of the crime.

The High Court’s judgment was based on the findings of the NHRC committee on July 12.

West Bengal had argued that the members of the committee were either “members of the Bharatiya Janata Party or were closely associated” with it. It named two committee members, Atif Rasheed and Rajulben L. Desai, in this regard. Mr. Sibal orally referred to another committee member, Rajiv Jain, during the hearing though the State’s petition did not refer to him.

“The inclusion of the aforesaid members in the committee indeed gave rise to a reasonable likelihood of bias and vitiated the independence of the entire committee, especially given their admitted leadership position within the committee and their rank when compared to others in the committee,” the West Bengal petition in the Supreme Court has said.

It has further contended that transfer of cases to CBI should be done only in “rare and exceptional cases” and not because unsubstantiated allegations have been levelled against the local police.

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