Published On: Wed, Apr 10th, 2024

Calcutta HC orders court-monitored CBI probe in Sandeshkhali sexual assault

Kolkata: In a significant development, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the allegation of sexual assault and rape in the Sandeshkhali district of West Bengal.

CBI shall file a comprehensive report and also enquire and investigate the grabbing of land

The court said it would monitor the investigation, and directed the CBI to file a report on the illegal conversion of agricultural land for pisciculture. The investigating agency has been asked to come up with a portal where people can register their voices. All witnesses will be given protection.

“Considering the complexity of the matters in Sandeshkhali, there is no doubt that an impartial investigation should be done. We believe that the state has to give proper support to whoever agency is in charge of the investigation. A portal/email ID is to be launched for receiving complaints. The District Magistrate should give adequate publicity mentioning the date of release of the same in vernacular,” it said.

“The CBI shall file a comprehensive report and also enquire and investigate the grabbing of land. The agency will have the power to enquire anyone, including common people, government departments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)s etc,” it said.

Sharing more details, Advocate Alok Srivastav said, “A landmark order has been passed by the Calcutta High Court today. An order has just been pronounced directed for HC monitored CBI inquiry in Sandeshkhali sexual assault, rape cases and also in land grabbing cases. In the ED attack case, a CBI inquiry is already going on… The HC has ordered the West Bengal govt to provide adequate facilities and protection to the CBI officers and the victims of Sandeshkhali. The HC has passed a series of directions in favour of the victims. I am going to file a caveat in the Supreme Court as I am sure that the West Bengal govt is likely to challenge the order as they did in the ED attack case but the Supreme Court has dismissed their challenge…”

Sandeshkhali, a serene riverine island, has found itself thrust into the spotlight following disturbing allegations levelled by local women against suspended Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh and his associates. The accused, known for their involvement in fish farming and trading, stand accused of both land-grabbing and sexual abuse.

The controversy deepened with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) delving into the January 5 assault on Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials. These officials, conducting a raid on Sheikh’s residence as part of an investigation into suspected irregularities within the state’s public distribution system, were met with attack by supporters of the TMC strongman.

February 5 witnessed a fervent outcry from local women as they demanded swift action against Sheikh and his cohorts. Their impassioned plea included allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, along with claims of land seizures. After evading authorities for 55 days, Sheikh was apprehended by state police on February 29, leading to his suspension from the TMC. Subsequently, court directives saw him transferred into the custody of the CBI.

The ramifications of the Sandeshkhali turmoil have rippled into the political arena, particularly amidst the build-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a rally in Cooch Behar on April 4, seized upon the incident to criticize the Mamata Banerjee-led administration, citing it as emblematic of the alleged mistreatment of women under TMC rule.

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