High Court’s encouraging verdict in the Bengal violence case

H.H. (Adv.) Suresh Kulkarni
The judges said they did not have faith in the Bengal Government. “There were allegations that the Police is not taking action and that is why we had to involve NHRC”, Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Binal said. “You have not put on record a single complaint received by you. Your conduct in this case does not inspire confidence of this Court”, he added.

The Court noted that the National Human Rights Commission had received over 500 complaints related to the violence, while the State Government said it had not received any. “How is it possible ?” the Court asked Advocate General Kishore Datta, representing the Bengal Government.

The Bengal Assembly elections were held recently. The Trinamool Congress party (TMC) got a clear majority. Activists of TMC wrought large-scale violence against the opposition (Hindus). The Calcutta High Court Bench recently passed a landmark judgement in favour of the fleeing victims. This verdict is a relief to Hindus and it strengthens their faith in the judiciary.

1. Massive atrocities on the opposition (Hindus) by the activists of TMC

Activists of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC targeted the opposition after winning the Assembly elections. The homes and shops of Hindus were burned down. Things were looted from their homes. They were attacked and their businesses were shut down. Many street vendors were evicted from the markets. Obstacles were created in front of the entrances of several Hindu shops. Their complaints were ignored. In some places, efforts were made to prevent the victims from filing complaints. As a result, hundreds of victimised Hindu families left their homes and took refuge in the neighbouring State of Assam. These victims were BJP voters.

2. Hindus displaced by the terror of rioters refused to return to villages

The violence was so horrific that even after the violence stopped, the displaced victims were unable to return to their villages. It is said that the victims were being pressurised to withdraw their complaints. Neither the Police nor the authorities made sincere efforts to stop the violence. Victims’ complaints were also not registered. The aggrieved victims, therefore, filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission as well as the Calcutta High Court. According to a petitioner Priyanka, she travelled in 12 to 15 Districts. She found that people have been oppressed in every District and many have become homeless and moved to other States. Their livelihoods have been cut off and they are unable to return home due to terror.

3. The Calcutta High Court appointed a committee on violence cases and asked it to tour the State and submit a report

Ten Public Interest Litigations were filed in the Calcutta High Court in this regard. All PILs were heard by the Court. The TMC alleged in Court – ‘The complaints are false and no atrocities have taken place. There was violence, but it did not have any religious or ethnic connotations. The BJP is giving it a religious colour’. The Calcutta High Court also heard the case from time-to-time. The Calcutta High Court set up a committee comprising Central and State Human Rights activists and Government representatives. The committee was asked to tour the violence-hit areas and submit its report. Following the report, the High Court issued various directions to the Government and administration of Bengal. The overall stand of the Bengal Government and administration was that no one was persecuted. All these PILs were filed on behalf of the BJP with political motives and to defame the ruling party. There were also discrepancies between the figures provided by the State Government and the Human Rights Committee.

4. Human Rights Commission report to the High Court exposed the violence perpetrated by the Bengal Government and opposed the Government’s claim

According to one petitioner, rioters set fire to his home and shut down his business premises. He went to the Police on this, but he did not get any help from them. The livelihood of the victim was destroyed. Therefore, this is an injustice under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. There was pressure to withdraw complaint lodged with the Police against the injustice. The Police did not pay attention to the complaint. A PIL was filed in the High Court. The Police then made it clear to the victim – ‘You have gone to the court now ? Let the Court give you justice. Do not come to us !’ At the same time, the State’s Attorney General told the High Court that the State Government was assisting the victims. The Court then asked for a report from the Human Rights Commission. The report made it clear that the violence was horrific and that the State Government was not providing any assistance.

5. The Human Rights Committee found that the victims have been subjected to numerous atrocities

The report was presented by the Human Rights Committee constituted jointly by the Central and State Governments. According to this report, after the Bengal elections, there were numerous atrocities in the State.

A. Properties were looted and vandalised

B. The rioters created huge panic. So the people had to leave their homes.

C. The affected people migrated to other States. Their women were later physically beaten and sexually assaulted.

D. Properties of Hindus were looted or encroached upon. The rioters forcibly closed their shops and businesses and demanded ransom.

6. Attempts of the Bengal Police to suppress the atrocities on the victims

As per the report submitted to the High Court on 10th June, the total number of victims was 3,243. Their complaints came to the Central and State Human Rights Commission. Copies of the complaints were then handed over to the local Police and each District Superintendent of Police on behalf of the Human Rights Commission. The Police claimed, “We had not received any complaints at that time. No one was tortured in the State. On the contrary, the Police have been helping the people”.

The High Court said that this issue was not limited to one constituency, but affected the safety of the people in the entire State. Therefore, every victim should get Police protection and criminals should be punished. During the hearing, the State’s Attorney General gave the Court an E-mail address stating that the complaints lodged by the victims would be considered and action will be taken based on them.

7. The High Court reprimanded the Government of Bengal and asked it to take serious action to control the law and order situation in the State

The Calcutta Bench judges expressed their displeasure several times in the Court in the case of violence perpetrated by rioters in Bengal. The Court said that the inaction of the Government was not justified when the livelihood of people was being snatched and their property was being destroyed. ‘We will not allow the Government to act in this way. Victims should be given justice by immediately looking into the atrocities against the people. Trust should be created among the people and fear should be removed from their minds. Let the victims settle in their homeland again. Take action against the rioters’.

In the judgement, the Court asked for establishing a Human Rights Committee. The Court said, “The Committee will visit each District and report to the Court on the atrocities committed against the victims”. The High Court directed the State Government to assist the Committee. “The State Government should regulate law and order so as to build trust among the people”, the High Court said in its judgement.

The Court did not like the fact that the Police and the administration remained silent spectators while the people were being persecuted, their livelihood was being taken away and their women were being harrased. Therefore, the Court slammed the Government in its judgement. The next hearing in the case was scheduled for 30th June, when the Court issued notices to the Union Government, the Government of Bengal and the Central Election Commission.

8. Court verdict

The verdict sent shock waves through the Mamata Banerjee Government in Bengal. The State Government filed a special petition in the Supreme Court challenging the verdict. Since the Government petition was not heard by the Supreme Court, the State Government moved the High Court seeking a ‘review’ of the verdict. In this application, the State Government requested Court – ‘We were not given enough opportunity. Hence, we could not submit related documents. Therefore, this verdict should be withdrawn’. Of course, the High Court rejected the application.

This verdict is heartening for the afflicted Hindus. This is why 100 crore people of the country still have faith in the judiciary. They should seek justice from every constitutional body such as the Courts, the Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Commission against every injustice done to them.

– H.H. (Adv.) Suresh Kulkarni (Founder Member, Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad and Advocate, Bombay High Court)

Properties of Hindus were looted, the rioters forcibly closed their shops and businesses and demanded ransom !