The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on petitions seeking the deployment of central paramilitary forces in West Bengal after protests were held in the state against remarks made by two Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons about Prophet Muhammad, Live Law reported.
Protests erupted in the state on on June 9 after Nupur Sharma made remarks about the Prophet during a debate on the Times Now television channel on May 26. Naveen Jindal, who was media head of the BJP’s Delhi unit, had posted a tweet on June 1 about the Prophet but later deleted it.
Demonstrations continued in the state on June 10. Protestors set several kiosks and vehicles, including those belonging to the police, on fire in Howrah district. On Sunday, a local train was vandalised in Bethuadahari town of Nadia district. Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from the state the next day too.
The petitioners have claimed that the violence was due to “utter intelligence failure” in the state, Live Law reported. They have also claimed that the state police authorities have been “mute spectators” during the violent protests.
A bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj on Monday had told the state government to ensure no untoward incidents take place, Live Law reported. It had also directed the government to seek help from the central forces in case it fails to control the law and order situation.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Advocate General SN Mookherjee, representing the state government, submitted a report, stating that adequate steps have been taken by the authorities to handle the situation.
He also told the court that no untoward incident has occurred in the state in the last two days, PTI reported. Mookherjee said 218 persons have been arrested since the June 9 violence.
He told the bench that 17 first information reports were registered by the Howrah Police Commissionerate between June 9 and June 10 and that 99 persons were arrested.
In the Howrah rural district, nine FIRs were lodged between June 9 and June 10 and 38 arrests were made, he said.
Prohibitory orders were issued, internet services suspended and confidence-building measures undertaken by the state government, he added.
Five FIRs were registered and 18 persons were arrested in the Murshidabad district between June 11 and June 13, the advocate general said. In the Diamond Harbour district, one FIR was lodged and 17 arrests were made, he added.
The chief justice then raised concerns of the petitioners.
“What they [petitioners] say is that they are apprehending that again on a particular day it [violence] may happen,” Shrivastava said, Live Law reported.
The advocate general assured the judges that the state will seek the help of central paramilitary forces if the situation goes out of control.
“It is a settled law that the discretion lies completely with the state authorities as to whether deployment of central forces is required or not,” he told the judges.
The bench reserved its order on the petitions but clarified that the matter is not yet disposed of.
Advocate Priyanka Tibrewal, who appeared for one of the six petitioners, told the court that innocent persons should not be arrested and those responsible for the violence should be accurately identified, PTI reported.
One of the petitioners have sought a inquiry into the incidents of violence by the National Investigation Agency on the grounds that such protests were allegedly pre-planned.
Another petition has sought the court’s direction to stop all religious and political rallies to ensure peace and harmony in the state.