Supreme Court issues notice to West Bengal government

News Desk: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and West Bengal government to respond to a plea seeking directions to prevent the alleged exodus due to “state-sponsored” violence after the assembly polls, constituting an SIT to probe the issue and take action against culprits.

A vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B R Gavai directed that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission of Women (NCW) be made parties in the matter after the petitioners said that they have taken note of the situation of people in West Bengal.

The top court said the replies of the Centre and West Bengal be filed in the matter and listed the plea for further hearing in the week starting June 7.

During the brief hearing conducted through video conferencing, Senior advocate Pinky Anand, appearing for petitioners who are social workers, lawyers and a victim of alleged post-poll violence, said more than one lakh people have been displaced due to the post-poll violence in the state.

She said many commissions like NHRC and NCW have taken note of the situation in the state and they too be made party in the case.

The bench asked Anand to file an application on this during the course of the day and allowed making the commissions parties in the case.

Anand also said that an interim relief be granted as people staying in camps need rehabilitation.

The bench however said, “Nothing happen ex-parte. We have to hear other parties. Let them file their replies”.

On May 21, the top court had agreed to hear the plea after Anand mentioned it for urgent listing.

The PIL filed by social worker Arun Mukherjee and others said that they are aggrieved with the post electoral violence in West Bengal from May 2 onwards.

The plea alleged that the police and the state-sponsored goons are in cahoots because of which the police proves to be a mere spectator in the entire episode, discouraging and threatening victims from filing FIRs.

It further alleged there was no investigation of cases, inaction in incidents where cognizable offences have been committed in presence of police authorities and no provision of security to those facing threats to life.

It said various media platforms including social media, print and electronic have covered the entire trail of incidents and various government organizations and autonomous institutions like NHRC and NCW have either suo motu or on receiving complaints from helpless victims have taken cognizance of the matter and sent out teams to investigate the matter.

“No support/assistance was offered from the State Government and even their security was compromised at many instances. They have reported the inaction of the police in providing protection to the women, who were attacked and threatened by hooligans and no action was taken by the police officials in this regard”, the plea submitted.

The plea further said that due to the circumstances, people are internally displaced and are forced to stay in shelter homes/camps in and outside West Bengal.

“The exodus of the people in West Bengal due to state- sponsored violence has posed serious humanitarian issues related to their survival, where they are forced to live in deplorable conditions, in violation of their fundamental rights enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”, it submitted.

The plea also sought formation of Commission for rehabilitation of displaced persons, compensation for loss of family members, property, and livelihood, mental and emotional agony.

The petitioners sought direction to Centre to discharge its duty vested under Article 355 of the Constitution to protect the state from internal disturbance and to ensure that the government in the state is carried on, in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.

It sought direction to Centre and West Bengal chief secretary to provide immediate relief to the internally displaced persons affected due to post-poll violence by setting up camps, make provision for food, medicines, pandemic resources, and make appropriate medical facilities accessible to them in light of COVID pandemic.

It said that Centre should also constitute an Inquiry Commission to assess the scale and causes of the exodus as well as direct West Bengal to provide long-term relief to the internally displaced persons affected due to post-poll violence, by making provision for their rehabilitation, compensation for loss of family members, property, livelihood, mental and emotional agony.

It also sought directions to Centre and West Bengal to set up an alternative helpline number, monitored by central forces to respond to SOS calls and also record complaints and FIRs of internally displaced persons within and outside the state of West Bengal.

The petitioners said that direction be also issued to Centre for deploying central protection forces, including armed forces, for the restoration of law and order in West Bengal and setting up a fast-track court to adjudicate matters pertaining to the prosecution of any individual or organization involved in the commission of heinous offences.

Mamata Banerjee led All India Trinamool Congress had won 213 seats out of 292 seats in West Bengal assembly elections in the hotly contested polls while BJP won 77 seats.

Several violent incidents were reported after supporters of Trinamool Congress and BJP allegedly clashed in various parts of the state since May 2, killing at least 16 people and triggering alleged exodus.