The West Bengal government on Monday raised doubts about the impartiality of members of the National Human Rights Commission’s fact-finding panel during a hearing of the case related to the West Bengal post-poll violence, reported Live Law.
It contended that several members of the panel had been members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
West Bengal witnessed a spell of violence after the Assembly election results came out on May 2. Various news reports put the toll between 11 and 14, but the police did not confirm the numbers. The BJP and the Trinamool Congress blamed each other for the deaths of multiple party workers.
The West Bengal government has challenged the Calcutta High Court order that asked for a judiciary-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into some of the cases related to the violence after the Assembly elections held earlier this year.
The High Court had asked the NHRC-appointed committee to submit a report on the violence and the five-judge bench had referred to this document as it passed the order for a monitored probe on August 19.
“Is this a Bharatiya Janata Party investigating committee?” asked lawyer Kapil Sibal, who represented the state government during the proceedings on Monday.
Sibal pointed out that some of the members in the NHRC-appointed panel held posts in the BJP.
Sibal also questioned how the NHRC could appoint the members with links to the saffron party. To this, the court said, according to The Telegraph: “If somebody had a political past and if he lands up in an official position by that very fact will we treat him to be biased?”
He claimed that the members were still putting up posts on social media related to the BJP, according to Live Law.
The state government counsel also contended that the High Court had not passed directions on the process that should be followed while collecting data in the case.
After the state’s submissions, the Calcutta High Court asked for the entire list of the NHRC committee members and the details of the queries raised by the Mamata Banerjee-led government.
Sibal also sought an interim order in the matter, but the judges said the case will be heard again on September 20.
The post-poll violence hearings
On June 18, the Calcutta High Court had directed the National Human Rights Commission of India to set up a seven-member committee to investigate the matter.
The rights panel submitted its report on July 13, recommending that cases of “heinous crimes” should be transferred to the CBI.
The committee had alleged that the state police were “grossly derelict, if not complicit” in the violence. However, the state government claimed that the committee was formed to “spearhead a witch hunt” against it.
On August 19, the Calcutta High Court had ordered CBI inquiry into cases involving allegations of murder, rape and crimes against women.
In its ruling, the court said that cases other than the ones being investigated by the CBI, will be probed by a Special Investigation Team. The High Court also said that it will monitor investigations of both the CBI and the SIT.