‘It Is True That The Court Cannot Come To A Conclusion Based On Press Reports, Nevertheless The Investigation Has To Proceed To Ascertain The Exact Cause Of Such Large-Scale Rioting’ : Calcutta HC

The division bench consisting of Justice Acting Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya of the High Court of Calcutta in the case of, Suvendu Adhikari vs. State of West Bengal (WPA (P) 151 OF 2023) noted while transferring the case to NIA, that prima facie, there has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the concerned police not to register any offence under the provisions of the Explosives Substances Act.

Facts of the Case:

Violence erupted during a Ram Navami procession in Howrah, West Bengal, torching several vehicles and ransacking stores. During the violence, several shops and auto-rickshaws were ransacked, and several cars, including a few police vehicles, were set on fire. Four fire engines were dispatched to extinguish the blaze. A large police force was deployed in the area where the situation is said to be under control. Subsequently, a PIL was filed by the West Bengal Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA, Suvendu Adhikari. The writ petition styled as a public interest litigation was filed praying or  issuance of a writ of mandamus to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to register an FIR into the act of violence, arson and communal conflagration of Howrah and Dalkhola on 30th March, 2023 on the occasion of Ram Navami.

Judgment Review:

The Court said that in the state of Bengal, at least twelve such violent incidents had taken place since April 2021 wherein weaponry, arms, ammunition, artillery and bombs were used by the miscreants causing great loss of life and public properties. The Court further noted that in more than 8 orders concerning the violent incidents, it had to transfer the probe to the NIA as the state police underplayed the true state of affairs. The Court also observed that during the violence, the mob became furious and assaulted the police with bamboo sticks and threw bricks on the police and also damaged one government vehicle and thereafter set fire to another vehicle and when mild force was used to disperse the mob, they became more furious and again started to assault police personnel with bamboo sticks, iron rods, stones, bricks, swords, displaying firearms with a view to kill police personnel, however, in the seizure list, only glass bottles and sticks and other weapons found mention. With this, the Court asked the state police to transmit all FIRs, papers, confiscated materials, CCTV video, and so on to the competent authority of the National Investigation Agency, which, upon receipt of all materials, shall begin an investigation and proceed in line with law. The Court issued this judgment in response to a slew of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions, including one filed by West Bengal Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who sought an NIA investigation into the Ram Navami violence.

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