Justice Indira Banerjee on Friday recused herself from hearing a plea before the Supreme Court seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the post-poll violence in West Bengal, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justices Banerjee and MR Shah was hearing petitions demanding an independent inquiry into the alleged killing of Bharatiya Janata Party workers by those associated with the Trinamool Congress after the results of the Assembly election on May 2.
“I have some difficulty in hearing this matter,” Justice Banerjee, who is from West Bengal, said as the court took up the matter on Friday.
The court then adjourned the matter, asking the registry to list the matter before a bench, of which Banerjee is not a part. The court also did not give the next date of hearing, saying it would not be proper to do so when a presiding judge was recusing themselves.
West Bengal had witnessed a spell of incidents of violence following election results on May 2. The BJP and the ruling TMC 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.
The petitioners in the case alleged that 18 political activists died, sexual violence was committed against women, and acts of loot, arson and destruction took place owing to the indifference of the state government. They sought the deployment of central forces to restore law and order in the state and setting up of a fast-track court.
The petitioners also accused the West Bengal government and the police of inaction and even complicity in the violence, and sought rehabilitation and compensation for those displaced by the violence.
On May 25, the Supreme Court had directed the state government to file a counter-affidavit on the pleas for the inquiry into the killings of the two BJP activists. The court had then tagged the petition with another plea seeking compensation for the victims of the post-poll violence.
In its counter-affidavit filed before the court on Monday, the West Bengal government had said that the petitions seeking independent inquiry are misleading and politically motivated.
Nirmalya Ghoshal, the West Bengal home department additional secretary, had informed the court in the affidavit that 22 people were killed in post-poll violence between May 2 and May 9.
Ghoshal pointed out that most of the deaths took place when the West Bengal Police were under the Election Commission’s control because of the Model Code of Conduct being in force. The official claimed in the affidavit that incidents of violence went down drastically after the Model Code of Conduct was withdrawn and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government was sworn in on May 5.
The West Bengal government also claimed it was being accused of complicity in the violence based on “hearsay reports and concocted stories disseminated on social media by miscreants”.
It also urged the Supreme Court not to intervene in the matter as a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court was already hearing petitions related to the violence.