Supreme Court Upholds CBI Investigation into Sandeshkhali Allegations, Dismisses Bengal Government’s Plea

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea from the West Bengal government that challenged a Calcutta High Court order directing a CBI investigation into allegations of mass sexual exploitation and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali, allegedly perpetrated by suspended TMC party member Sheikh Shahjahan and associates. The decision marks a significant move in a case that has stirred considerable controversy and public outcry.

The bench, comprising Justices B R Gavai and K V Vishwanathan, maintained the High Court’s decision but clarified that the High Court’s observations should not influence the trial court proceedings or any future legal remedies.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, representing the West Bengal government, argued that the state police had already taken substantial steps by filing a 42-page charge sheet and deploying women police personnel in the area. He criticized the High Court’s decision for escalating the issue, suggesting it was politically motivated. However, the Supreme Court bench countered, highlighting delays and inaction by the state in addressing the complaints: “You don’t act or do anything for months.”

The issue escalated to the judiciary following a series of protests that began on February 7, 2024, in Sandeshkhali, located in the Bashirhat Subdivision of North 24 Parganas district. Locals alleged severe instances of molestation, rape, and land grabbing involving TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates, Shibu Hazra and Sushanta Sardar alias Uttam Sardar.

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The Calcutta High Court had previously mandated the CBI investigation on April 10, 2024, after noting that numerous Public Interest Litigations (PILs) indicated potential political motives behind the allegations. Despite the state police filing charge sheets in 42 out of 43 First Information Reports (FIRs) under various sections, including Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code for rape, the High Court deemed a federal investigation necessary to ensure impartiality and thoroughness.

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