The law and order situation in West Bengal is not good. The government, headed by Mamata Banerjee, is standing firmly behind Trinamool Congress men suspected of being involved in various criminal charges, and it is the Kolkata High Court that has had to repeatedly intervene.

On July 28, the single bench of Justice Dipankar Dutta ordered a police complaint to be lodged against TMC MP Tapas Paul for threatening to kill and rape members of opposition parties, which drew nationwide condemnation. It also ordered the state criminal investigation department to initiate a court-monitored probe into the incident.

But signalling its support for the accused MP, the government moved a higher bench. The higher bench asked the government on Thursday why the police had not initiated an investigation. On Friday, it will resume hearing the matter.

The politics of murderous threats has escalated to such an extent in West Bengal that it claimed a victim this week. A young sub-inspector of Dubrajpur police station in Birbhum district, Amit Chakraborty, died on Monday after going into a coma two months ago when a bomb was hurled at him during a clash between the TMC and the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist).

He is among three policemen who have died in political clashes over the past three years, allegedly involving TMC-backed goons. The main suspect in the murder of this young policeman is Aleem Shaikh, a TMC member who belongs to the Dubrajpur Panchayat Samiti. Shaikh is absconding, although in the police complaint he was the prime suspect, among 47 other people. He fled after the officer died, but had attended the Panchayat office quite regularly before that, according to villagers.

The Bengali media extensively reported that the police were under political pressure not to touch  Aleem Shaikh because he is supposedly close to TMC Birbhum district chief Anubrata Mandal. In the last Panchayat election, Mandal openly exhorted party workers to hurl bombs at the police. Yet, Mamata Banerjee called Mandal a good organiser who was a victim of a vilification campaign by the press.

Opposition parties said the policeman's death was a logical consequence of Mandal's violent threats because party workers were only following their leader's exhortations. The high court castigated state authorities for not acting against Mandal. The matter is still pending before the court. But until now, the police have not questioned the leader even once, let alone arrest him, as is also happening in the Tapas Pal case.

Mandal also appears in the police complaint for the Parui case, in which men allegedly associated with the TMC murdered Sagar Ghosh, the father of a rebel independent candidate, in July 2012. A week earlier, Mandal had publicly threatened to burn the candidate's house down.

But Mandal's name is absent from the chargesheet filed by the police in July. The state government threw its weight behind this TMC leader by employing its own counsel in the high court, where the murdered man's son had demanded a CBI inquiry, saying he had no faith in state agencies. Justice Harish Tandon admitted the petition and asked the state to file an affidavit when the court takes up the matter on August 19.

Another case involves a TMC MLA from Labhpur in Birbhum, Monirul Islam, who is a suspect in the murder of three CPM workers in June 2010. Islam admitted on camera to have “trampled and killed three people with his feet”. In July, the bench of Justice Dipankar Dutta directed the West Bengal government to clear its stand before the court with regard to the CBI inquiry it had demanded in this case.

Here again, the police dropped the name of this MLA from the chargesheet it submitted before the trial court although he was the prime suspect in the police complaint lodged by the relatives of the murdered victims.

Tapas Pal, Anubrata Mandal and Monirul Islam enjoy the unstinting support of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her government. Although a case could have been made against them, state counsels are instead defending them at the taxpayer's expense. Even before a police complaint could be lodged against them, the chief minister issued statements in their support, later even appearing with them in public.

Opposition parties allege that in this climate no policeman can act independently. People are therefore looking to the judiciary to act. Every day, local newspapers carry headlines with adverse comments made by the high court about the law and order situation in the state.