Murshidabad Violence: HC expresses displeasure, asks ‘what is use of polls’

The court said state and central investigating agencies can file their separate affidavits if they so desire.

Kolkata: Expressing displeasure over violence during the recent Ram Navami celebrations in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked “what is the use of conducting elections when people cannot celebrate an occasion in peace for 8 hours” and said it may propose deferment of the Lok Sabha polls in Baharampur constituency.

Hearing two petitions seeking CBI and NIA probe into the clashes on April 13 and 17 in the constituency, a division bench presided by Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam said that if two sets of people are fighting when the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force, then they do not require any elected representative “because the election will cause another problem.”

While the court made these observations verbally during the hearing, in the written order it said that it would consider how the matter is to be probed after an affidavit on the progress of investigations into the incidents is filed by the West Bengal government. It asked the state to file the response by April 26, the next date of the hearing.

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The PILs were filed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Kolkata area convenor Amiya Sarkar and the regional convenor of Muslim Rashtriya Mancha (MRM), West Bengal and Sikkim, S A Afzal.

During the hearing, the bench also proposed to “make a recommendation to the Election Commission of India that when people cannot celebrate an occasion in peace for eight hours, they shall not be entitled to elect their representatives to the parliament, so that the election to Baharampur constituency shall be deferred.”

The court asked what is the use of conducting elections “when two sets of people are unable to reconcile themselves to a six or eight-hour programme.”

“If people can’t live in peace and harmony, we will countermand the elections, we will say the Election Commission shall not hold parliamentary elections in this district,” said the court, expressing displeasure at the events in Murshidabad.

The Chief Justice said that as per news reports, around 33 programmes were held on Ram Navami in Kolkata, but there was no untoward incident.

The court was informed by the petitioners that the first incident took place at Kamnagar under Beldanga police station on April 13 and the second one at Saktipur on April 17.

Noting that both the petitioners were on the same page that this is the first time incidents of violence have taken place in these areas in Murshidabad on Ram Navami, the court asked whether outsiders were involved.

While the VHP requested an NIA investigation, the MRM sought CBI and NIA probes into the incidents.

In the order, the division bench, also comprising Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, directed the West Bengal government to file a report on the next hearing in the form of an affidavit.

The court said state and central investigating agencies can file their separate affidavits if they so desire.

“In the instant case we find a peculiar feature that both the writ petitioners have contended that in the past there has been no violence during Ram Navami festival and this is the first time such incidents have occurred,” the bench said.

Appearing for the state, senior counsel Amitesh Banerjee informed the court that the state CID has taken over the investigations into the April 13 and 17 incidents.

He also said that the clashes were triggered by very small incidents.

The bench asked what the police were doing when the incidents took place in Murshidabad district with the MCC in force.

When the state’s counsel submitted that the central forces were also there, the court asked what they were doing.

Appearing for the central government, Assistant Solicitor General Asok Kumar Chakrabarti submitted that the central forces were on patrol and not engaged in controlling the crowd there.

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