Bengal violence: Only three per cent of accused now in jail, says NHRC report

Making a list of alleged notorious criminals in various districts, it noted the names of a state minister, a ruling party MLA and a former MLA among others.
For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)
For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)

KOLKATA: The NHRC committee enquiring into alleged post-poll violence in West Bengal as per a Calcutta High Court order has said that a large number of complaints have been received from six districts of the state, while only three per cent of the total accused people are currently in jail.

The report submitted to a five-judge bench of the high court on July 13 said that Cooch Behar recorded 322 complaints, Birbhum 314, South 24 Parganas 203, North 24 Parganas 196, Kolkata 172 and Purba Bardhaman 113.

Making a list of alleged notorious criminals in various districts, it noted the names of a state minister, a ruling party MLA and a former MLA among others.

The seven-member enquiry committee, which was formed by the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission on a direction by the Calcutta High Court, said that the percentage of accused arrested and that of accused who are still in custody is abysmally low, showing "inept performance of local police and there is no deterrence for criminal elements."

It said that the data provided by the West Bengal director general of police reflects that, out of the 9,304 accused cited in FIRs, only 1,354 (14 per cent) have been arrested and, out of them, 1,086 (80 per cent) already secured bail.

"Thus, overall speaking, less than 3 per cent of the accused are in jail, while 97 per cent are out in the open, making a mockery of the whole system, the report said.

"It is quite evident that police is working under influence and in a biased manner and do not have the courage to take action against looming goons belonging to the ruling dispensation," the seven-member NHRC committee report said in a scathing remark.

The report noted that the inspectors in-charge of police stations have not visited the places of many of the violent incidents, nor collected any evidence or recorded statements, "let alone registering FIRs."

It said that out of the 311 spot enquiries conducted by the NHRC teams, in as many as 188 instances (60 per cent), FIRs have not been registered and that in 33 (27 per cent) of the remaining 123 cases, "police have resorted to dilution by using milder sections of law."

The report said that when the NHRC operational teams visited these 311 places, additionally, 2,869 people approached them with petitions requesting enquiry and registration of cases.

"To summarize, for 123 cases registered by the police, there were another 3,057 (2869+ 188) number of complainants/ petitioners/victims, whose cases were either not registered by police or cases were diluted or police were not accessible to them and therefore, they wanted NHRC teams to enquire into their issues," the report said.

If this is considered as a sample of the state of affairs in West Bengal, the extent of burking and minimisation of crime across the state can be well imagined, the committee said in its observation.

National Commission for Women (NCW) member Rajulben L Desai, who is a member of the NHRC committee, "during her visit to villages observed that people are not coming out of their houses because of the reason that if they make a complaint then the goons of TMC (Trinamool Congress) will further victimise their family members."

The report said that Desai observed in this situation there is no rule of law in the state.

"There is need of good governance in the state of West Bengal for implementing the rights provided by Indian Constitution i.e, Right to live with dignity (Article 21) which includes right to residence and right to food, right to medical, legal aid and freedom of expression," she observed, according to the report submitted before the high court.

Holding that the committee's work was severely affected by prevalent fear among victims, the report said that it precluded many victims from mentioning their plight or the name of the perpetrators of crime or abettors.

Asserting that the "poor and common people have lost faith in police," the report said that almost all the victims informed the inquiry committee and their teams that the police either did not respond to their phone calls or came and stood as mere spectators while goons went on a rampage from one place to another.

"The police were either negligent or complicit or under pressure not to take any action against the goons belonging to the ruling dispensation," it said.

It said that the sanctioned and actual manpower in police stations is very low, given the large area and dense demography.

It is not sufficient to cover large scale incidents and carry out effective beat policing at beat/chowki level, the report said, adding that this shortage has been sought to be augmented by deployment of civic volunteers.

"The spate of violence shows a pernicious politico- bureaucratic-criminal nexus. Criminals indulged in violence against political rivals while the bureaucratic edifice was complicit in various degrees."

"This is a deadly combination that has sinister implications for any State and will ultimately corrode the entire edifice. The presence of this nexus in a border State also has larger national security implications," the committee said in its report.

Recommending ex-gratia payments to the victims, the NHRC committee said that the next of kin of deceased persons should be given Rs 5 lakh each, while survivors of sexual assault should be given Rs 2 lakh each.

Victims who suffered vandalisation/looting/destruction of their properties should be given Rs 1 lakh each.

Victims who suffered grievous injuries should be given Rs 1 lakh each and those who suffered a simple injury should be given Rs 50,000 each, the panel recommended.

The NHRC Thursday rejected as "baseless and factually incorrect" allegations that a report prepared by its committee probing the incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal has been leaked by the rights panel.

The National Human Rights Commission said in a statement that the panel had submitted its report to the Calcutta High Court on July 13.

"The NHRC refutes allegations in a section of the media, regarding the leak of the report, relating to the post-poll violence in West Bengal," the statement said.

Since the report is already available with all the concerned parties as per the directives of the court, "there is no question of leakage at the level of the NHRC," the rights panel said.

The attribution regarding the alleged leak of the report to the NHRC is absolutely "baseless and factually incorrect," the statement said.

The NHRC has already shared the copy of the report with the "advocates of the concerned parties in this matter in accordance with the directions of the Hon'ble Calcutta High Court", it added.

The Commission had constituted the committee to inquire into the post-poll violence in the state as per the directions of the Calcutta High Court.

"On further directions of the court, the committee provided a copy of it, to its advocate in Calcutta, who shared with the advocates of all the concerned parties in the related multiple writ petitions," the statement said.

"The matter being sub judice, the committee of the NHRC did not share its report to any entity other than those specified by the hon'ble court," it added.

The committee, in the report placed before the Calcutta High Court, has recommended a CBI investigation into "grievous offences like murder and rape" and suggested that these cases be tried outside the state.

The report, however, drew the wrath of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who said the panel was pursuing "political vendetta" on behalf of the BJP by "leaking" its findings to the media.

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