« Back to articlePrint this article

Sandeshkhali: HC orders police to arrest Trinamool leader

February 26, 2024 19:02 IST

The Calcutta high court on Monday directed the police to arrest Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh, who has been accused of sexual atrocities and land grab by villagers in Sandeshkhali area, while clarifying there is no stay on it.

IMAGE: Women protest demanding the arrest of TMC leader Ajit Maity and others, at Bhanga Katpol area of Bermajur, Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas on Sunday, February 25, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The court said it is surprising to note that the incidents of atrocities in Sandeshkhali were reported to the state police four years ago.

"It is furthermore surprising that it has taken four years for 42 cases to mature into chargesheets," a division bench presided by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam said.


Noting that advocates appearing in the matter submitted that a wrong impression has been created that a stay had been granted by the court on the arrest of Sheikh, the bench said that there is no record in any of the cases relating to incidents at Sandeshkhali that there is a stay on Sheikh's arrest.

"Therefore, the said person shall be arrested by the concerned police authorities," the court directed.

The court directed that Sheikh, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the district superintendent of police and the state's home secretary representing the West Bengal government be impleaded as parties in the suo motu matter initiated on the allegations of sexual atrocities on women and land grab of tribal people.

The bench directed the high court registry to give public notice in one prominent English and one Bengali newspaper stating that Sheikh has been made a party in the matter, as he is on the run and not seen in public since a mob attack on ED officials on January 5.

The division bench, also including Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, directed that the matter will come up for hearing again on March 4.

Noting a petitioner's submission that women in the area were afraid to lodge complaints with the police fearing reprisals, the court said that it would consider on the next date of hearing whether the Legal Services Authority should be requested to take up those cases.

Advocate General Kishore Dutta, representing the state, submitted that in four years till December 18, 2023, the local police registered 43 first information reports (FIRs) on various charges including rape, out of which chargesheet have been submitted in 42 cases.

He further submitted that seven cases were registered during the same period over allegations of grabbing land owned by tribal people and chargesheet have been filed in all of these.

Holding that the manner of investigation is not clear and under what provisions the chargesheets were filed, the bench said that this aspect will be examined by it at a later date.

Dutta also stated before the court that 24 cases have been started since February 18 this year on various charges and 15 arrests made.

Stating that four years is too long a period, the Chief Justice said the 'issue has been boiling for quite some time and ultimately it has burst'.

The court asked what more proof is required that land grabbing took place at Sandeshkhali when the state government has taken steps to rehabilitate the victims.

Petitioner lawyer Priyanka Tibrewal claimed that while state ministers were being allowed to go to Sandeshkhali freely, others were being prevented.

The AG submitted that the state ministers have not visited those places in Sandeshkhali block II where prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were operational and also went to Sandeshkhali block I, where no such orders have been imposed.

Clarifying the issue that an impression was created about a stay being in operation on the TMC leader's arrest, the court said that in a different matter, it had on February 7 stayed the constitution of a joint special investigation team of the CBI and the state police which had been ordered by a single bench to investigate the attack on ED officials.

It had restrained the state police from proceeding with investigation in the cases which were registered by them in connection with the attack.

ED officials were attacked when they went to search the premises of Sheikh on January 5 in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam in West Bengal.

Three FIRs were filed at Nazat police station in North 24 Parganas district on January 5 -- one by an employee of Sheikh against the ED officials, another by the ED against Sheikh and his alleged accomplices and a suo motu FIR by the local police.

The ED and the state government had moved separate appeals challenging the single bench order.

While the ED prayed that only the CBI be ordered to investigate the attack, the state prayed that its police be given the sole authority to probe the FIRs on the same.

© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.