On May 19, the Supreme Court dismissed Mamata Banerjee Government’s plea seeking a stay on Calcutta High Court’s order directing the transfer of probe into the violence which occurred during Ram Navami celebrations in the state to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The West Bengal Government’s counsel Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi contended that the NIA Act cannot be invoked in ordinary cases unless the violence affects the security or sovereignty of the state. Furthermore, he claimed that the Calcutta High Court passed the order assuming that explosives were used during the violent incidents, therefore, warranting the invocation of the NIA Act.
He said, “NIA has a clear bar. There cannot be NIA just because you say there might have been a Bomb…all this is done in a PIL, by an active member of the BJP,” alleging that BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s PIL is politically motivated.
The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court about Mamata Government’s reluctance in transferring documents, as per the Calcutta High Court’s directions. He said, “We, after registration of FIR, we wrote to them that give us papers of investigation. They write a letter to us saying we’re before SC. So please clarify my lords…”
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said, “We’re simply going to take this after vacation. We’re not staying the order of the HC.”
Calcutta High Court’s observations
On April 27, the Calcutta High Court transferred the probe, and directed the West Bengal Police to hand over all documents including FIRs, case papers, seized materials, footages, etc concerning the violence which occurred during Ram Navami celebrations in the state to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The Calcutta High Court said, “We are convinced that no useful purpose would be served by directing the State Police to register cases against those, who used acid bottles and petrol bombs etc under the Explosive Substances Act as the matter has travelled beyond that stage and it is fit case to transfer the investigation to the NIA.”
The Calcutta High Court said, “…it is evidently clear that despite the offences being committed under the Act mentioned in the schedule to the NIA Act, no case has been registered under the provisions of such Act. It raises a series doubt in our minds as to whether this was a deliberate attempt by the investigating police fighting shy of resorting to the procedure required to be complied with under Section 6(1) of the NIA Act.”
The Calcutta High Court said that the state police has underplayed the true state of affairs as the police has been directed to transfer the probe to the NIA in more than 8 cases. The Calcutta High Court said, “the state police having been directed by this Court in more than 8 orders to transfer the matter to the NIA, in the present incidents they have under played the true state of affairs which in our view should not be permitted.”
Furthermore, the Calcutta High Court said that it prima-facie found that there was a deliberate attempt of the police to not register offences under Explosive Substances Act. The Calcutta High Court said, “we prima facie find that there has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the concerned police not to register any offence under the provisions of the Explosives Substances Act. There is also mention about the acid bottles and if be so, necessarily offence under the scheduled Act having been committed, the procedure under Section 6(1) of the NIA Act should have been resorted to.”
The Calcutta High Court concluded, “In the result, the writ petitions are disposed of by directing the concerned police to ensure that all the FIRs, documents, materials seized, CCTV footage etc. be immediately handed over to the appropriate authority of the National Investigation Agency who on receipt of all the entire materials shall commence investigation and proceed in accordance with law.” Furthermore, the Calcutta High Court stated that the police shall handover the materials to the NIA within a period of two weeks from the order’s date.