The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday trained guns at each other over the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) probe into the recently held post-Assembly poll violence in West Bengal. The issue gained momentum after sections of the media reported that “21 instances of sexual assault cases forwarded by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) were closed by the CBI due to lack of evidences”. The CBI has rejected the claim.
The war of words erupted after TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray tweeted: “CBI has not found evidence in 21 cases of sexual harassment and rape in post poll violence alleged by the National Human Rights Commission in a report filed before Calcutta High Court. Hence, NHRC must be dissolved for serving political interests of the BJP. CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG.”
Rajya Sabha MP of Trinamool Congress Jawhar Sircar tweeted, “Remember BJP’s hue and cry about rape of women in post-poll West Bengal? All 21 cases of sexual assault, rape sent by BJP’s NHRC to CBI rejected by CBI — as fake!”
TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya Dev, too, tweeted, “There was (sic) 39 “Allegations” of Rape during so called “post poll violence” in Bengal. According to the investigation so far, the allegations in 21 out of 39 cases have been already found to be completely false! Period.”
Coming down heavily on ruling party leaders in Bengal and criticising the media reports, Amit Malviya, BJP’s national information and technology department chief and co-in-charge, West Bengal, tweeted, “These malicious media stories are intended to rescue Mamata Banerjee from the consequences of the investigations, undermine the fight of victims, many of them women, who were raped and brutalised by TMC men, for standing with the BJP, while CM and her police looked the other way.”
Malviya highlighted another tweet which claimed that additional solicitor general YJ Dastoor called upon the editor of an English daily to immediately retract a report and apologise for wrongly reporting developments in the ongoing Bengal Violence cases before Calcutta HC viz. submissions of CBI that there existed “no proof in 21 rape cases mentioned by NHRC”.
Condemning the statement made by TMC leaders, former BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “With the CBI statement, it is clear that they have not closed the 21 cases and it was handed over to the State SIT. I think that TMC leaders should do their homework based on facts before uploading their statement on social media.”
Meanwhile, the CBI in its statement on Tuesday evening said: “It has been reported in a section of media on 3rd January & 4th January, 2022 that 21 numbers of instances of sexual assault forwarded by NHRC, were closed by CBI alleging that no evidence of rape, attempt to rape, molestation, sexual assault was found in those complaints….On August 19, 2021 the Calcutta High Court had ordered the CBI to investigate incidents involving offences of murder, rape and attempt to rape. Based on court’s order, the CBI has registered only those cases meeting these criteria (murder, rape and attempt to rape) which are under progress.”
“It is clarified that CBI had received 29 numbers of complaints of sexual assault from NHRC related to sexual offences till December 22, 2021. Of these, two cases were handed over to the State Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the grounds of its nature of offences, in line with the mandate given in the orders of the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court. Further, two complaints relating to same incident of sexual assault were received by CBI which were amalgamated, resulting in registration of only one regular case for investigation. Remaining cases are under progress,” it read.
The probe agency further said, “It may also be mentioned that State Police had referred 64 numbers of incidents to CBI in furtherance of the Calcutta High Court order. Out of it, 39 offences were taken over by CBI by registering regular cases, four references are under process while 21 number of references were returned to State Police/SIT on the ground of nature of offence, as CBI has been mandated in the order of the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court dated August 19, 2021 to investigate post-poll violence cases of Murder, Rape and attempt to Rape.”
“As such, the reports, published in a section of media alleging that CBI has found no evidence in 21 cases listed as offence of Sexual Assault by NHRC, contain misrepresentation of facts, are blatantly mischievous, grossly misleading and entirely false. Accordingly, the same are strongly denied. It may be mentioned that at the time of submission of Status Report, CBI had registered 50 numbers of Regular Cases and one Preliminary Enquiry into the incidents of Post Poll Violence. By the time of submission of Status Report, CBI had submitted Charge Sheet in 10 cases while remaining cases are under progress,” the CBI statement read.
On Monday, the Calcutta High Court took note of the latest status reports on ‘West Bengal post poll violence’ submitted by the CBI and the Special Investigation Team formed by the Bengal government.
Dastoor appeared on behalf of the CBI before a division bench of the Calcutta HC comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice IP Mukherji.