Ram Navami violence: SC to hear on July 21 WB’s plea against HC order handing over probe to NIA

The Supreme Court said on Monday it will hear on July 21 the West Bengal government’s petition challenging the Calcutta High Court order handing over the probe of incidents of violence during Ram Navami celebrations in the state to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud sought to know whether the six FIRs, which were lodged by the state police, relate to the same incident.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranaraynan, who appeared for the state, told the bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra, that FIRs were lodged for incidents that had taken place on March 30 and April 2.

“There are as many as six FIRs… Do they all relate to the same incident?” the bench asked, adding, “do the FIRs overlap?”.

“Ultimately, we have to look at the heart of the allegations,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing on July 21.

On May 19, the apex court had refused to stay the high court order handing over the investigation to the NIA.

The anti-terror probe agency has registered a case following the high court order.

During the hearing on May 19, senior advocates Abhishek Singhvi and Gopal Sankaranaraynan, both representing the West Bengal government, had said the high court had in its order referred to only one FIR related to the Chandan Nagar incident.

“We have instructions that the court may allow the probe of Chandan Nagar FIR to be done by NIA but rest five FIRs be allowed to be investigated by the state police,” Sankaranaraynan had said.

Singhvi had said the NIA cannot be brought in for ordinary cases of violence unless it affects the country’s security or sovereignty.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and PS Patwalia, appearing for top state BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, had said the NIA has registered a case and, even if the high court order is stayed, the investigation will go on.

The West Bengal government has assailed the high court order transferring the probe to the NIA, saying no explosives were used and the direction was passed on a “politically-motivated” PIL filed by the leader of the opposition in the state assembly Suvendu Adhikari.

Singhvi had submitted that the state police did not find any instance of use of explosives which could have warranted NIA’s involvement in the investigation.

On April 27, the high court had ordered a probe by the NIA into the incidents of violence at Shibpur in Howrah and Rishra in Hooghly districts during and after the Ram Navami celebrations.

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The order was passed on a PIL by Adhikari and three other petitions seeking an NIA probe into the violence at these two places.

The high court had directed the state police to ensure all FIRs, documents, material seized and CCTV footage were handed over to the NIA within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order.

“In the cases on hand, we prima facie find that there has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the concerned police not to register any offence under the provisions of the Explosive Substances Act,” the high court had said in its order.

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