The West Bengal government has filed an application before the Calcutta High Court seeking recall of its order that directed the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to constitute a committee to examine all cases of alleged human rights violations during post-poll violence in the state. The application has been listed for hearing on Monday before a five-judge bench which passed the order two days ago after taking into account the PILs on post-poll violence.
The state government prayed for grant of an opportunity to deal with a report by the member secretary of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) on the matter before the next date of hearing, and make submissions on the steps taken by it on such complaints of clashes and violence. The PILs have alleged that political attacks have led to displacement of people from their residences, physical assault, destruction of property and ransacking of offices.
The government also prayed that the findings in the order of June 18 “against the state of West Bengal and/or its officers may be expunged”. It claimed that the order had been passed without giving the state an opportunity to file its response in connection with the SLSA member secretary’s report.
The state also prayed for a stay of operations given in the order till the disposal of the PILs. The five-judge bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar, has directed the chairperson of the NHRC to form a panel for examining all cases of alleged human rights violations during post-poll violence.
The bench said that the committee will scrutinise the complaints the NHRC has received or could receive, and submit a comprehensive report before it about the present situation, after “may be by visiting the affected areas”. It further asked the committee to suggest steps that has to be taken to restore confidence in people and ensure they get to live peacefully in their houses and carry on with their occupation or business.
“The persons prima facie responsible for crime and the officers who maintained calculated silence on the issue be pointed out,” the bench ordered, directing that the matter would be taken up for hearing again on June 30. The court noted that the SLSA member secretary will be a part of the committee, to be formed by the chairperson of the NHRC. It said that a representative from the State Human Rights Commission, West Bengal, be also associated with it.
The bench observed that in a case where the life and property of the residents of the state are allegedly in danger on account of post-poll violence, the state cannot be allowed to proceed in the manner it likes. Contending that the complaints required immediate action, the bench said, “Somehow from the facts as are available on record and are sought to be projected by the petitioners, such an action is missing.”
“It is the duty of the state to maintain law and order… and inspire confidence in the residents,” it said.
The bench observed that complaints with regard to post-poll violence received by the SLSA have been tabulated in six different categories — property vandalised, looted or damaged by miscreants, threat by miscreants as a result of which the applicant(s) are out of his/their house and requires to be reinstated, assault or sexual assault, grabbing or encroaching of property, shop/business forcefully closed by miscreants, and demand of ransom. A report submitted by the SLSA member secretary said 3,243 persons had reported suffering till noon of June 10.
The official also said that complaints were referred to the superintendent of police or police stations concerned in some of the cases, but no response was received.