Don’t treat Bengal as accused in Nandigram firing, CBI told

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not to treat the West Bengal government as an accused in the 2007 police firing in Nandigram even as the state government opposed the federal probe into the incident.

The state government told the apex court that the probe into the March 14, 2007, police firing in Nandigram, in which 14 people were killed and 100 injured, should be conducted by any agency other than the central investigating agency.

The CBI is under the central government and we are in the opposition (at the centre). Let the probe in Nandigram police firing by done by any agency other than the CBI, the apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik was told by the senior counsel K.K. Venugopal representing the state.

Have they (CBI) proceeded against the conspirators? Those who created the situation (leading to police firing). Has their background been investigated,” asked the senior counsel.

In yet another poser to the CBI, Venugopal asked if an executive report by the divisional commissioner on Nandigram firing was considered by the investigating agency.

He said that the report of the divisional commissioner was based on the testimonies of 600 witnesses.

The West Bengal government told this to the apex court that was considering a CBI application seeking vacation of the apex court order restraining the investigating agency from initiating the proceedings against police officials guilty.

Appearing for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal said that the investigating agency had already given its report to the Calcutta High Court in a sealed cover.

He told the court that there were several elements of the report that included identification of people against whom incriminating material had been collected.

The report recommended initiation of departmental proceedings against officials which could not be done without registering a criminal case, Rawal told the court.

Venugopal said that how could the state government say anything without looking at the report.

Rawal said that the report was submitted to the high court in a sealed cover and was in its domain.

Sensing the reluctance of the CBI to part with the report, Justice Raveendran asked Rawal to read the March 15, 2007 order of the high court.

He said that the March 15 order was in two parts that asked the investigating agency to submit a comprehensive report on Nandigram firing, identify the police officers who transgressed the law and proceed against them in an appropriate court.

Justice Raveendran told Rawal that no where did it tell theCBI to submit the probe report in a sealed cover and not to give it to the state government.

Justice Raveendran went on ask what prevented the CBI from giving the report to West Bengal government.

Dont treat the state government as an accused. Give them a copy of the report, he said.

The apex court made it clear that the state government could not read the high court order in a way to differentiate and deny compensation to some of the victims of the police firing.

Venugopal told the court that we are not paying (compensation) to a person whose hand was blown off while trying to lob a bomb at the police.

Should he also be paid? the senior counsel asked.

At this, the apex court said: The high court has not made any distinction. We (apex court) have not stayed the high court order. So pay as directed by the high court.

We will not go into the legality of the issue, it said.

The court directed the state government to pay compensation to all the injured or raped, irrespective of its claim of their involvement in violence against police.

During the police firing, 14 people were killed and over 100 injured while protesting against land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ) in Nandigram.

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