KOLKATA: In a reprieve to Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Suvendu Adhikari, the Calcutta High Court on Monday said police cannot take any coercive action in criminal cases relating to him in the state, including in the investigation by the CID into the unnatural death of his bodyguard.
The CID had asked Adhikari to appear before it on Monday in connection with its investigation in a murder case lodged by the widow of the security guard in 2021, but the BJP MLA remained absent, citing pending petitions before the high court challenging FIRs against him in several cases, and political engagements.
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha stayed proceedings against Adhikari in connection with three cases pertaining to the death of the bodyguard, an alleged political clash in Nandigram and a case of snatching lodged in Contai, Nandigram and Panskura police stations, respectively, in Purba Medinipur district.
Allowing investigation in an alleged job scam case registered with Maniktala police station in Kolkata and a case of allegedly threatening the police at Tamluk, the court directed that no coercive action can be taken against him in connection with these.
Adhikari is not a named accused in the cases filed in Contai and Maniktala police stations.
Observing that the “right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 is cardinal, above all and completely non-negotiable,” the bench said “in the instant case there is prima facie evidence before this court of abuse and or misuse of state and police machinery in registering cases for investigation based on half-truths, fiction, concoctions and nonevents.”
Directing the West Bengal government to furnish information regarding any further FIR registered against Adhikari, the bench directed that the state will have to obtain permission from the court before arresting him or taking any coercive action against him in all such cases.
The high court asked the BJP leader to cooperate with the investigating officers in connection with the two cases in which probe will continue, while making it clear the investigators will, as far as possible, accommodate him, if he is required to give any statement, from a place and time convenient to him, considering his public responsibilities.
The order was passed on Adhikari’s petition seeking the court’s intervention in criminal proceedings filed against him by the state police or ordering transfer of investigation of the cases to the CBI.
He claimed that these cases are politically motivated since he is a BJP MLA and the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly.
Adhikari complained of abuse of state and police machinery by the ruling dispensation in registering FIRs against him.
He also said these cases were lodged against him after he left the ruling Trinamool Congress and joined the BJP.
The former West Bengal transport minister’s counsel alleged before the court that victimisation and harassment by the state had begun immediately after the petitioner switched over to the saffron party in December 2020, and intensified after the assembly elections in May this year.
Appearing for the state, Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted that Adhikari is not a named accused in the cases of death of his bodyguard in 2018 and the alleged job racket, and as such cannot seek relief before the court.
Opposing Adhikari’s prayer for handing over the cases to the CBI from the state police, Dutta argued that transfer of investigation is sought primarily by the victim of a crime, and the basis of that is inadequate investigation into the crime perpetrated upon the victim.
Disagreeing with the contention of the advocate general, Justice Mantha said the high court is of the view that a prayer for transfer of investigation cannot be restricted, to be sought only by a victim of crime.
“An accused can equally be prejudiced by a biased investigation or malicious prosecution and can, therefore, seek transfer of investigation,” he said.
The court further observed that Contai police station did not enquire as to what caused the delay of three years in registering a complaint of murder by the widow of the security guard, which was originally treated as suicide.