The Calcutta high court on Thursday ordered a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the violence at Shibpur in Howrah and Rishra in Hooghly district during and after the Ram Navami celebration.
The judgement came on a public interest litigation (PIL) by the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari of the Bharatiya Janata Party and three other petitions seeking an NIA probe into the violence at these two places, during which bombs were allegedly hurled.
A division bench presided over by Acting Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam directed the state police to ensure that all the first information reports (FIRs), documents, materials seized and CCTV footage be immediately handed over to the NIA within two weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of this order.
It also directed that the NIA 'on receipt of all the materials shall commence investigation and proceed in accordance with the law'.
Passing the judgement on the bunch of petitions, the bench said, "In the cases on hand, we prima facie find that 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."
The court said as it is convinced that no useful purpose would be served by directing the state police to register cases under the Explosives Substances Act or under any other scheduled act as the matter has travelled beyond that stage, it is a fit case where the entire investigation should be transferred to the NIA.
Clashes broke out between two groups at Shibpur area of Howrah during Ram Navami festivities on March 30, during which several vehicles were torched and shops were ransacked.
Violence was also reported on April 2 evening during a procession as part of the festival at Rishra.
Quoting from a FIR that bombs were allegedly hurled during violence at Rishra on April 2, the division bench, also comprising Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya, said that the police had not registered any case under the Explosives Substances Act.
The court also noted from a report by the police that the situation in Rishra had deteriorated to the extent that internet services have been suspended.
The court also took note of a representation received by the registry of the high court from the additional district and sessions judge of Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas district.
The district judge 'has lamented about the safety and security of his family residing in Rishra and as to how in spite of request made by him to the local police, they were reluctant and did not even respond'.
The petitioner claimed that since bombs were hurled, the provisions of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, will be attracted and hence, the investigation has to be conducted by NIA.
Holding that documents appended to reports submitted by the Chandannagar Police Commissionerate, within which Rishra falls, clearly reveal that scheduled offences have been committed, the court said that the state police have, however, not registered offences under the Explosives Substances Act.
Questioning whether the state police have purposely failed to register any offence under any of the scheduled enactments fearing that the matter will have to be transferred to the central agency for investigation and further action, the bench said 'this would be a good reason for the court to transfer the investigation to a central agency'.
The court also noted that in around eight cases, this high court had to order transfer of investigation to the NIA from the state police.