The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the West Bengal government’s power to withhold consent to inquiry into cases by the Central Bureau of Investigation is not absolute, PTI reported on Friday.

The Centre made the statement in an affidavit in response to a suit filed by the West Bengal government in relation to investigation into cases of post-poll violence in the state. The Mamata Banerjee-led government had alleged that the CBI was investigating the cases without permission from the state.

On September 28, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to explain its stand on the matter.

The Union government’s Department of Personnel and Training told the court that the West Bengal government had not made the CBI a respondent to the suit. The department added that all the prayers in the suit are directed at the Centre, even as it had not registered any case in West Bengal, or been investigating any case.

The affidavit added that a state government’s power to give consent to the central agency cannot include an omnibus power to pass sweeping directions, or withdraw consent that has already granted, Bar and Bench reported.

“The statutory power conferred upon the State Government under Section 6 of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act [under which the CBI was established] is always coupled with a responsibility to exercise that power on a case-to-case basis with an inbuilt condition of exercising the same in larger public interest and not to shield any accused...purely on political considerations,” the Centre said.

The central government added that the CBI can investigate crimes related to the Union List in the Constitution. It noted that the Union List includes entries related to the defence of India, and arms and ammunition.

West Bengal post-poll violence

West Bengal had witnessed several incidents of violence following the Assembly election results on May 2. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress blamed each other for the deaths of multiple party workers. Various news reports put the toll between 11 and 14, but the police did not confirm the numbers.

On August 19, the Calcutta High Court had directed the CBI to investigate allegations of murder, rape and crimes against women in connection with the violence.

The West Bengal government has alleged in the petition before the Supreme Court that the CBI was acting at the behest of the Narendra Modi-led central government, and that the agency was unlikely to conduct a fair investigation into the matter.