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Nandigram: SC stays CBI action against cops
December 13, 2007 12:57 IST
Last Updated: December 13, 2007 22:07 IST
The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Central Bureau of Investigation from initiating criminal proceedings in court against police officials for the March 14 Nandigram [Images] firing but the West Bengal government found itself on sticky wicket on almost all major issues relating to the case.
The apex court, which for the time being stayed the Calcutta High Court order on registration of FIR against the officials, said that the CBI inquiry would continue.
The West Bengal government has challenged the high court order, indicting it for 'unjustified' firing on innocent people in Nandigram and direction for paying a uniform compensation of Rs five lakh to each of the 14 persons killed and Rs two lakh and Rs one lakh to those raped and injured in the firing.
A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said it was not going to interfere with the findings of the high court at this stage as the investigating agency was to file its report on December 17.
It issued notice to the NGO, Association for Protection for Democratic Rights and other respondents on whose petition the high court had passed its order.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal's arguments for the West Bengal government that High Court's findings that the police firing in Nandigram was 'wholly unconstitutional and unjustifiable' compromises with the integrity of the order for CBI probe, did not find favour with the bench.
"Why do you worry about CBI report," the bench said and added "you can challenge if you find that CBI report is influenced by high court findings. You can always come to this court."
"You are assuming that the CBI is going to do something else," said the bench, also comprising Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal, brushing aside his apprehension that the findings of the high court will influence the CBI.
The bench further said the High Court has only asked the investigating agency to identify the victims, offenders and find out whether any crime was committed against an individual.
The bench also took objection to the submission by the senior advocate that the firing at the crowd in Nandigram was not indiscriminate.
"Fourteen persons died and 160 injured and you call it a discriminate firing," the bench said.
The West Bengal government also found itself at the receiving end for its objections to the high court's direction on compensation to be given to victims.
"For 14 persons killed the total compensation amount is Rs 70 lakhs only and you are making issue of it," the bench observed and took exception to the submission that those who died due to bursting of a bomb which they were trying to throw at the police party had also been brought under the ambit of compensation.
"You are assuming that somebody was trying to throw bomb at police," the bench said and wanted to know whether any policeman was injured by bomb.
Lawyers, including senior advocate Harish Salve, from the opposite side said till now there was no report of any single cop getting injured by a bomb.
Venugopal said the state government was not seeking a stay of the CBI inquiry but was aggrieved by the high court order quashing Regulation 115 (B) of Police Rule, which lays down the guidelines for dealing with mob and use of lethal weapon to control it. "It has been declared unconstitutional," he said.
"We can understand the predicament because high court has declared the regulation as invalid," the bench said.