Calcutta, Sept. 24: Calcutta High Court today stunned the Mamata Banerjee government by handing over the Sagar Ghosh murder case to the CBI and declaring that the “high-profile political executive” was “giving a protective umbrella to the abettor of the offence”.
Such an indictment of the executive has not been made in recent memory although the Mamata Banerjee government has been suffering one blow after the other in several cases.
The verdict is especially damaging to chief minister Mamata Banerjee because she had gone out on a limb to support Anubrata Mondal, the Trinamul Birbhum district president whose inflammatory speech is blamed for the murder of Ghosh, the father of a rebel party candidate in the rural polls, last year.
Seeking to brazen out the controversy, Mamata had described Anubrata as “khub bhalo chhele (very good boy)” and later shared a platform with him.
The withering pronouncements make it virtually untenable for G.M.P. Reddy, the Bengal director-general of police who heads the special investigation team, to continue in his post. Against such a backdrop, the state government is expected to move a division bench to seek a stay.
The judgment (excerpts on Page 6) calls into question the way the police administration is run in the state at a time the CBI probe into the Saradha scandal has brought out glaring omissions by another state-run special investigation team and controversy has plagued the police action in Jadavpur University.
“The confidence entrusted upon the DGP has been shattered as his action during the investigation was all along influenced by the government. The entire investigation is tainted with the extraneous influence, more particularly, by high-profile political executive giving a protective umbrella to the abettor of the offence,” Justice Harish Tandon said in the judgment.
The DGP was unavailable for comment today.
At another point, the judgment said: “There is no hesitation to say that the investigation has been done one-sided; ignoring the vital and important revelation with the definite object to protect the said political leader.”
Such an unequivocal statement deals a body blow to the government that had employed a battery of lawyers to avert the possibility of a CBI probe.
Sagar, the father of Hriday Ghosh who rebelled against Trinamul and contested as an Independent in the panchayat elections in 2013, was shot dead by alleged Trinamul supporters at his home in Parui, Birbhum, on July 21 last year.
The Ghosh family had accused Mondal and some of his aides as the murder took place a few days after he had asked party supporters to burn the houses of dissident candidates.
Dissatisfied with the probe by Parui police station and later by the special investigating team — set up following the court’s instruction under the direct supervision of DGP Reddy — the family moved the high court seeking a CBI probe.
A Trinamul leader said the party was worried about the judgment coinciding with growing public resentment against the ruling establishment — articulated by the turnout and mood at a rally organised by Jadavpur University students in Calcutta last Saturday.
“The names of our leaders are coming up in the CBI investigations into the Saradha case. Students are hitting the streets against the government…. Now there is this verdict…. Difficult times for us,” the Trinamul leader said.
However, the government cut a brave face. Partha Chatterjee, education minister and Trinamul secretary-general, said: “Many other cases were handed to the CBI. Has the agency been able to solve even one? The apex court had earlier called the CBI a caged parrot.”
Sources in the Trinamul legal cell said that a team of lawyers was finishing the paperwork to challenge the order in a division bench. As the government’s prayer for an immediate stay was refused, an appeal has to be moved in “a day or two”, said a lawyer.
Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra expressed apprehension that the state government would try to block the CBI probe in the Parui case. “To prevent the CBI from probing the Saradha case, the government had spent Rs 11 crore from the state exchequer. Party members took the brief on behalf of the government. They will try this again but it is not going to help,” he said.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha said the CBI probe and the observations of the judge made it clear that the role of the state administration was “partisan” in the case.