‘The lame defense for such inaction of the SHRC, advanced on affidavit and argued by counsel on their behalf, to say the least, is ridiculous.’: Calcutta HC

The single judge bench of Justice Rajashekhar Mantha of the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday (10/05/2023) transferred the investigation of a case, Nilkamal Sarkar v. State of West Bengal & Ors. and other related petitions to the incident of firing and bombing at Darivit High School in the Islampur block of Uttar Dinajpur district, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Facts of the Case:

On September 20, 2018, the students and parents of the Darivit High School began to protest against the appointment of two Sanskrit and Urdu teachers in the school. It was stated in the FIR that the Police received information at 2.05 pm about an agitation started by the students of the school. Upon receiving information, Inspector-in-Charge, Islampur P.S., along with a contingent of additional officers and police force reached the school and found a large number of students and about 1000 other persons agitating against the appointment of the Urdu and Sanskrit teachers in the school. The students restrained the police from entering the school. It was alleged that the police force was suddenly attacked by an unruly mob with bricks, lathi, bombs, and firearms. Several police personnel are stated to have been injured. The police too fired tear gas and rubber bullets. It was stated that three civilians and one police officer received bullet injuries and several police vehicles were damaged. It was further stated that out of three civilians who received bullet injuries, two of them succumbed to their injuries. A suo moto FIR was registered by the Islampur Police Station under Sections 147, 148, 149, 186, 353, 333, 326, 307, 302 of IPC read with Sections 3 and 5 of Explosive Substance Act, Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and Section 9 of The West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (WBMPO) Act, 1972 against 14 persons and 1500 other unnamed persons. The CID, West Bengal, took over the investigation on September 25, 2018 from the Islampur P.S. and investigation continued over 4 years thereafter by eight successive investigating officers of the CID. A charge sheet dated November 7, 2022 was submitted. Three writ petitions were filed on October 4, 2018 seeking a transfer of the investigation to the CBI.

Order Review:

The Court remarked that from the 21st of September, 2018 till date, the SHRC has been guilty of complete inaction.

“The lame defense for such inaction of the SHRC, advanced on affidavit and argued by counsel on their behalf, to say the least, is ridiculous. There was no functional Chairman of the NHRC from 2020 onwards until 2022. This would ipso facto mean that the SHRC was fully functional having coram from 2018 to 2022. As to why the SHRC was reluctant to send a team to the spot and has remained absolutely inactive, even as on date, despite a statutory mandate under Section 36 of the Act of 1993 remains unexplained. Counsel for the SHRC argued that the NHRC was already in the field and taking steps. They did not want to interfere with or interrupt the enquiry of the NHRC team.”

The Court said that it has been left with no other optios than to consider and entertain the report of the NHRC filed along with their affidavit for the limited purpose of considering whether it is a plausible second opinion or view of the actual turn of events in respect of the incident at Darivit High School. Pursuant on considering the findings of the NHRC in its report and highlighting the omissions of the CID, West Bengal in the investigation, the court observed that the investigation of the CID, West Bengal, is inadequate and “perfunctory”. Thus, the court directed the investigation of the incident to be transferred to NIA. The court further directed the State to pay compensation to the families of the victims both killed and injured in the incident within a period of two months.

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