The NHRC committee, which was formed on the orders of the Calcutta High Court to probe the incidents of post-poll violence in the state, submitted its final report on Monday (July 12).
Recommendations before the Calcutta High Court
- Central Bureau of Investigation: The Committee has recommended that grievous offences like murder, rape, etc., should be handed over to CBI for investigation. Trials of the CBI cases should be held outside the State.
- Special Investigation Team: The other cases should be investigated by a court monitored SIT under the supervision of IPS officer and others.
- Monitoring Committee: Monitoring Committee headed by a retired Judge and should have independent officers as Observer in each district should be formed to monitor the implementation of orders of this Court.
- Fast Track Courts: There should be fast track courts, Special PP and Witness Protection Schemes.
- Relief for the victims: The recommendations also include (1) ex-gratia payment, (2) compensation for damages, (3) measures for reinstatement and rehabilitation, (4) static pickets of Central Armed Police Force, (5) protection to women, (6) action against delinquent Government servants, (7) electric connection and water supply should restored and (8) ensure distribution of free rations and extension of medical services to all needy people, (9) employment for the family members of the murder victims, and (10) skill development programmes in violence affected areas.
- Reforms in the State Police system: (1) proactive policing in extensive villages, (2) identification of anti-social elements and goons by the police, (3) local intelligence system should be improved, (4) Police should revise its guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures, anti-riot drills etc. (5) comprehensive study of manpower requirements of Police, and (6) composition of State Security Commission, Police Complaints Authority, Establishment Board, appointment of DGP and fixed tenures of officers concerned.
- Reforms in Bureaucracy: There is need for systemic changes and creation of an enabling ecosystem, where officers with rectitude and competence are given due recognition, and their commitment is to the public and not to the political master.
- Investigation: Records of medical treatment in private hospitals and clinics should be treated as corroborative evidence and collected during the investigation of cases.
Present situation of the State
The situation in the State of West Bengal is a manifestation of “Law of Ruler”, instead of “Rule of Law” described in the following points:
- The ruling party: Violent incidents in the State of West Bengal was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party (TMC) against supporters of the main opposition party (BJP).
- Nature of the violence: Most of the violent incidents included murder, rape, molestation, assault, vandalism, looting, dispossession, arson, extortion, threat and intimidation.
- Violence was retributive. It was in retaliation to those who “dared” to vote or support the BJP.
- Disruption of life and livelihood: A large number of houses, shops and vehicles, etc., of workers of the BJP were vandalised and looted and water and electricity connections severed, resulting in disruption of life and livelihood of these families.
- Continuing Trauma: Violent incidents such as threat or extortion calls and atmosphere of revenge/reprisal still exists, even while they have reduced after the intervention of Calcutta High Court’s orders and NHRC’s spot visits.
- Fear among the supporters of main opposition party: There is a clear and perceptible fear in the eyes and minds of people affiliated to the BJP that since they had voted or actively canvassed or done some poll/booth duty for their party.
- Faith lost in the State Police: Poor and common people have lost faith in the State Police.
- TMC goons were accused: Goons of the ruling party (TMC) was alleged by most of the victims.
- FIRs were not registered: The fundamental basis of Criminal Justice System i.e., free and immediate registration of cognizable offences was absolutely missing during and after the violence.
- The failure of the State Police: The State Police have failed to reinstate the displaced people and bring them safely to their houses ensuring their security and livelihood.
- Apathy of the State administration: Victims complained before the NHRC Committee about the apathy of the State administration and alleged that the Government and senior Police officers had not taken any strict action against any district SSPs/DCPs or I/Cs of Police stations where large number of crime occurred.
- Low manpower in the PS: Sanctioned and actual manpower in Police Stations is very low, given the large area and dense demography.
- Untrained Police: Large number of Police Stations are locally employed young boys who have neither been regularly recruited nor given any training like regular Constables and, hence, they are neither effective nor capable of handling crime or law and order situations.
- Unholy nexus: The spate of violence shows a pernicious politico – bureaucratic – criminal nexus.
- Attack on the Fundamental Rights: There had been brazen violation of several fundamental and human rights of people including right to life and liberty, right to live with dignity, right to livelihood, right to food and water, right to feel secure and so forth.
Composition of NHRC Committee
In pursuance of WPA (P) 142 of 2021 of Calcutta High Court dated 18 June, 2021 and subsequent directions in hearing on the same petition, on 21 June, 2021 and 2 July, 2021, a seven members committee was constituted by the Chairperson of NHRC, Justice Arun Kumar Mishra.
This Committee was headed by Rajiv Jain (Member of NHRC) to enquire into complaints of post poll violence in West Bengal. The Committee is as under:
1. Rajiv Jain, Member, NHRC, Head of the Committee
2. Atif Rasheed, Vice Chairperson, National Commission for Minorities
3. Dr. Rajulben L. Desai, Member, National Commission for Women
4. Santosh Mehra, Director General (Investigation), NHRC
5. Pradip Kumar Panja, Registrar, West Bengal State Human Rights Commission
6. Raju Mukherjee, Member Secretary, West Bengal State Legal Services Authority
7. Manzil Saini, DIG (Investigation), NHRC
The Court directed the NHRC examined into the complaints of incidents related to post-poll violence in West Bengal and visited the affected areas and interacted with the victims and other aggrieved petitioners/complainants.
Number of cases studied
The Committee received around 1979 complaints/petitions covering over 15,000 victims from the following mentioned sources:
- The Committee covered 311 spot visits in a brief period of 20 days.
- The Committee received approx. 1650 complaints consisting of 5,000 victims approximately.
- A list of complaints received in WB-SLSA (West Bengal Legal Services Authority) were 315 in number and cover approx. 9,949 victims.
- 18 complaints were received from through e-mail
- A list of 57 complaint cases related to women was received from the National Commission for Women.
- A large number of cases related to murders, rapes, molestation and vandalism received from local sources in West Bengal.
- Committee also studied the heinous and other offences/complaints as narrated in the various petitions before the Supreme Court of India and High Court of Calcutta.
- A large number of complaints were received during the camp sittings, through email and mobile numbers given through a press release at the time of visits.
Contempt of Calcutta High Court’s order by the DGP of West Bengal
The Calcutta High Court vide its orders of 2 July, 2021, in para 9 (a) has given the directions to Police of West Bengal to register cases in all matter which have been placed before the NHRC or any other authority/Commission. Total 1893 complaints were sent by the NHRC to the DGP but till the 13 July, 2021 only 137 FIRs are registered.
The Calcutta High Court, in Para 16 of its order dated 18 June, 2021, had directed the Government of West Bengal to make all arrangements for this Committee. However, The State Government made accommodation arrangements for the members of this Committee in Bedi Bhavan, Kolkata. This place was absolutely unsuitable due to ill maintenance, bad odour, lack of cleanliness in rooms and kitchen, etc. It is learnt that the State Government has better accommodation in Kolkata but chose to not provide the same to the Committee.
Incomplete information provided by the State Government
- The Committee also asked the information from the Chief Secretary and DGP of West Bengal about the (1) cases reported in districts wise, (2) number of people displaced, (3) total monetary loss, (4) details of relief camp, (5) compensation provided, (6) employment given on compassionate ground, (7) confidence building measures taken, (8) Details of Police officers transferred in/out from their place of posting, (9) Details of cross cases registered, and (10) details of FIRs registered after Calcutta High Court’s order on 2 July, 2021.
- The DGP Head Quarters provided the following data from 02 May, 2021 to 20 June 2021:
Number of complaints lodged 1934
Number of FIRs registered on these complaints 1168
Number of accused cited in FIRs 9304
Number of accused arrested so far 1345
Number of accused on bail 1086
- However, Committee has a strong opinion that information provided by the DGP of the State is incomplete. Spot visited and camp sitting by the Members of the Committee
- A Committee Member from National Commission for Women visited seven districts and met around 425 complainants and victims.
- A Committee Member from National Commission for Minorities visited Malda and Murshidabad districts from 6-8 July, 2021.
- The head of the Committee Rajiv Jain with other officials visited districts and areas in Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, Purba Medinipur, North 24 Parganas, and South 24 Parganas.
- Camp settings were organised by the member of the enquiry committee on 27-29 June in which an opportunity was given to all complainants/victims/petitioners to meet the members of the committee in person and apprise them of the incidents and sufferings faced by them after the post poll violence.