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'Extremely shameful': High Court pulls up Bengal govt over Sandeshkhali

State government fully responsible for safety of citizens, says Calcutta High Court Chief Justice

Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan at the Basirhat court, in North 24 Parganas. The party has suspended him for six years | File photo: PTI

Sheikh Shahjahan | File photo: PTI

Nandini Singh New Delhi

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The Calcutta High Court (HC) on Thursday pulled up the Bengal government, saying petitions related to the violence in Sandeshkhali showed what happened was "extremely shameful”.

The court rebuked the Trinamool Congress-led state government, saying it is its "100 per cent responsibility" if the "safety of a citizen is under threat".

"What has happened in Sandeshkhali is extremely shameful. The entire district administration and the ruling dispensation owe moral responsibility for what has happened in Sandeshkhali. 100 per cent responsibility lies with the ruling party if the safety of a citizen is under threat; the government is responsible," said the court.

Advocate Priyanka Tibrewal, petitioner in the suo motu matter concerning alleged sexual violence and land grab cases, said she had received several complaints from Sandeshkhali.

"So many people came. They said nothing happened. I am putting the affidavit on record. I am not mentioning their names or they will be under threat. There was a lady who went to visit her father whose land was grabbed. She was taken in daylight and raped [by people], including [Sheikh] Shahjahan and other workers. This is not just land grabbing but deep issues, including government land officials. The land records were changed and [they were] asked to file a civil suit. How will these people file a civil suit? If they resist, they are tortured and raped. Even police are involved," she said before the court.

Former Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan, was arrested by the Bengal Police on February 29 for his alleged involvement in an attack on an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team in Sandeshkhali on January 5. He and his associates face allegations of land grab and sexual assault under coercion by several women, sparking a political dispute between the BJP and the ruling TMC.

During Thursday's hearing, Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said that even if one per cent of what Tibrewal said is true, it would be shameful. Sivagnanam scolded Sheikh Shahjahan's lawyer, stating, "You are appearing for an accused who is under investigation. You first clear the shadow around you, then voice your grievance." 
The lawyer assisting the court in the case said that a comprehensive report, covering all aspects including land grabbing, has been submitted. 

"Few lands are being returned. They admitted that lands were grabbed, but the way in which lands are being returned is not proper. Land was grabbed by some people, but now the state is returning the land. How is this happening? We also found that several women are being tortured, and the way complaints are being filed in the police is also not proper," he said.

Shahjahan has been remanded to ED’s custody till April 13. He is incarcerated in Basirhat jail.

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First Published: Apr 04 2024 | 6:18 PM IST

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