Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bengal Government In Supreme Court Against CBI Probe Into Sandeshkhali Case

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New Delhi:

The Bengal government has approached the Supreme Court against a Calcutta High Court order directing the CBI to probe allegations of extortion, land grab, and sexual assault from Sandeshkhali against suspended Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates.

This comes hours after the CBI – which is also investigating the January 5 attack on an Enforcement Directorate team – conducted a raid on hideouts linked to suspects in that case.

Sources told NDTV the federal agency recovered foreign-made weapons and ammunition, following which teams of the National Security Guard, who are elite commandos, were deployed to the spot.

READ | Foreign-Made Guns Found In CBI Raid In Bengal’s Sandeshkhali

The Sandeshkhali row broke after a mob of Shahjahan’s supporters set upon an ED team en route to conduct searches related to a separate case. In the aftermath of that attack, in which ED officials were hurt – the Trinamool strongman went on the run (and stayed hidden for nearly two months).

The attack on the ED team triggered a furious political row – particularly since the general election, then, was just weeks away – with the BJP and even the Congress (on paper a Trinamool ally) ripping into Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government for delays in arresting Sheikh Shahjahan.

Shahjahan, who was earlier being investigated by the ED for money laundering in the ration and land scams that have rocked Bengal politics – was eventually arrested on February 29, 2004.

READ | Sandeshkhali Accused Shahjahan, On The Run For 55 Days, Arrested

The entire issue has snowballed into a major flashpoint before the election, which began last Friday.

The Trinamool was accused by the BJP of shielding Shahjahan, who was arrested only after the High Court’s explicit direction; this was after contentious comments by Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, who claimed the state could not arrest Shahjahan because the court had “tied (police’s) hands”.

The BJP has also fielded one of the women who alleged sexual assault by Shahjahan – Rekha Patra – as a candidate from the Basirhat seat, which includes Sandeshkhali.

The Trinamool hit back by pointing to ex-wrestling body chief Brij Bhushan Singh, a sitting BJP MP accused of sexual assault by women wrestlers.

Amidst all this, earlier this month the Bengal government received a stern reprimand from the state’s High Court Thursday as it heard affidavits seeking probes into the Sandeshkhali allegations.

A bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said the state could not shirk accountability in the event the allegations are found to be true. “Even if one affidavit is correct, it is shameful…” he said.

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