West Bengal: Political slugfest sparked by NHRC report on violence

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KOLKATA: A panel of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) investigating post-poll violence accusations has concluded that in Bengal, “the law of the ruler” existed “instead of the rule of law.”

The panel, asked to examine the complaints by a five-judge bench of the Calcutta high court, has recommended in its final report that complaints of “grievous offences like rape
and murder” be handed over to the CBI for investigation.
“These cases should be tried outside the state. The other cases should be investigated by a court-monitored special investigation team. There should be fast-track courts, a
special public prosecutor and a witness-protection scheme,” its report stated.

The panel provided a list of 13 “delinquent police stations” in Cooch Behar, Birbhum, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah where the number of arrests was the
lowest and recommended action against “delinquent government servants”.

The Bengal government has already filed a “recall application” in the Calcutta high court, seeking modification of the five-judge bench’s order as the court gave additional directions to the state
government based on the NHRC team’s “brief report” even though the state did not have access to the contents of the report.

NHRC panel members made 311 spot visits in 20 days The state had also objected to the larger bench’s recording of its response to post-poll complaints as “lukewarm”. “The findings in the interim report are required to be supported by evidence and reasons,” the state application stated.
The NHRC report comes at a time when the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Election Commission, the centre and the Bengal government following a PIL urging president’s rule in Bengal. The 50-page report noted the state government’s “appalling apathy” to victims’ plight, adding: “The spate of violence shows a pernicious politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus. This was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party. It resulted in disruption of life and livelihood of thousands of people and their economicst rangulation. The local police have been grossly derelict if not complicit in this violence.”
NHRC panel members made 311 spot visits in 20 days and held “camp sittings” in Kolkata, East Midnapore, Howrah, East Burdwan and Murshidabad.

The panel looked at 1,979 complaints, 57 from the National Commission for Women and 18 from the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, and determined the number of accused still in jail to be “abysmally low.” The NHRC panel sent 582 complaints to the state director-general of police, following which 137 FIRs were registered; it noted 188instances from its 311 spot visits in which no FIR was registered.
National Commission for Women member and NHRC panel member Raju ben L Desai said she found during her visit to three districts that women victims had “come under pressure from the local police to withdraw their complaints”.

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