“Why Is State Interested In Protecting An Individual”: Supreme Court On Sandeshkhali Case

Sandeshkhali: Shahjahan Sheikh was arrested by the CBI in February.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will continue to probe the sexual assault and land-grabbing charges against Sandeshkhali strongman Shahjahan Sheikh and his aides as the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a challenge by the West Bengal government.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and KV Viswanathan also sought to know from the Mamata Banerjee government why the state was interested in protecting an individual.

Shahjahan was arrested by the CBI in February after a dramatic exchange with the Bengal cops. A day later, the Trinamool suspended him from the party for six years.

The Calcutta High Court in April ordered a CBI probe into the 42 cases against Shahjahan and his aides – including ration scam charges – observing that the matter was complex and required an impartial probe.

The West Bengal government challenged the order in the Supreme Court, which dismissed their petition on Monday and upheld the high court order.

The Supreme Court had on April 29 remarked why the state should come as a petitioner for an individual, to which the Bengal lawyer had argued that the high court judgment contained comments about the Bengal government.

Senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, representing the Bengal government, said today the high court direction to the CBI could have been restricted to just two FIRs relating to the ED, but it covers other alleged offences as well.

He, however, failed to convince the bench with Justice Gavai lamenting that the state “did not do anything for months” and asked again why the state was interested in protecting an individual.

To this, Mr Singhvi opposed several remarks in the high court order and said much work had been done in connection with the alleged ration scam.

The Supreme Court, still not persuaded, upheld the high court order. However, it said the court’s remarks against the West Bengal government and the cops must not influence the CBI probe.

The Sandeshkhali case pertains to multiple allegations of sexual assault, land grabbing, and ration scam perpetuated by Shahjahan and his aides.

The CBI is also probing an attack by Shahjahan’s supporters on an Enforcement Directorate team that was on its way to conduct a raid on the strongman. Several officers were injured in the attack.

Shahjahan went missing as the allegations against him and his aides broke. The Trinamool was accused of shielding him and came under heavy opposition fire in the state.

As the Sandeshkhali case snowballed into a political row ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP fielded a local woman as its candidate from the Basirhat constituency. She lost.