For the first time during uninterrupted regime of the Marxists in West Bengal questions have been raised before the Supreme Court regarding legalities behind releasing persons convicted in a murder case and sentenced by trial court as well as by High Court for life imprisonment just by issuing administrative order by a government. Yes, this has exactly happened to West Bengal’s CPI(M) Industries Minister, Nirupam Sen who was sentenced to life imprisonment along with eight other co-accused in a daring murder case in 1975.
Sen’s review appeal against the sentence had been rejected twice at the time by Kolkata High Court. Sen, who is also a member of the CPI(M) central committee, spent nearly 11 months in prison with his other co-accused before he was released from jail following unconditional withdrawal of all criminal cases against them by the Left Front government soon after it assumed power in the state in 1977.
Mystery deepens when the Supreme Court has asked Kolkata High Court Registrar to submit relevant papers and documents of the said murder case before it. It is learnt that the Registrar pleaded his inability to furnish any paper or document before the apex court as they are missing from the custody of the High Court soon after their release from prison in 1977. In fact, all judicial papers and chargesheets prepared by the investigating police officers in the murder case have been removed secretly without trace.
This is the reason why Nirupam Sen did not mention a word about his conviction in murder case while filing his nomination for the first time before the Assembly elections in 1996. Even during the next two Assembly elections in 2001 and in 2006 Sen did not mention about his punishment in a criminal case like murder while filing his nominations. According to the People’s Representation Act, it is mandatory to refer past convictions in criminal cases at the time of filing nominations in any election conducted by the Election Commission of India.
Political parties, including those who are in the Opposition, have not raised the issue before the ECI so far as it is nearly impossible to place relevant papers implicating Sen in the said murder case. With the change of political scenario in West Bengal following severe drubbing of the CPI(M) in the Lok Sabha elections, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the apex court seeking clarifications regarding the release of the convicts by the Left Front government. Questions are being asked whether it is true that Sen and other convicts were released on parole by the state government. If so, then whether a parole could be granted to convicts by any government for an indefinite period or not. The apex court is likely to take up the PIL soon.
We have to go back to March 17, 1970 when Nirupam Sen, who was then a Burdwan district leader of the CPI(M), led a mob of armed party supporters in Burdwan town and attacked the house of an influential Congressman Pranab Sain in broad daylight. Marxist killers had butchered Pranab and his brother Malay inside the ‘Sain House’ with swords and spears in front of their mother Mriganayana Devi. Marauders then smeared blood of her slain sons on the face of their mother and even forced her to eat boiled rice mixed with her son’s blood. This ghastly scene was witnessed by several hundreds people of the locality and many of them later narrated their experience on oath before the trial court.
After some initial delay due to political upheavals at the time in the state, the police finally submitted chargesheets against eight CPI(M) leaders and activists. The Burdwan District Session Court had convicted the eight accused and sentenced them to rigorous life imprisonment in 1973. All the accused made appeals to Kolkata High Court for reviewing their sentences which were rejected twice in 1975. The High Court also rejected their bails and ordered to send them to prison without delay.
Among the eight convicted Marxist killers, there were leaders who later occupied key positions in Left Front government as well as in the CPI(M) party. They are: Nirupam Sen, state’s high-profile Industry Minister, Benoy Konar, member of the CPI(M) central committee, Amal Haldar, general secretary of the CPI(M) Burdwan district committee and Rajat Bandopadhyay, Registrar of Jadavpur University. Rajat was first appointed personal secretary to Buddhadev Bhattacharjee who was then the state’s Information and Cultural Affairs Minister soon after his release from the prison.