Bengal Refuses To Hand Over Sheikh Shahjahan To CBI, Goes To Supreme Court

Sandeshkhali Violence: The court had directed the police to transfer custody of Shahjahan, as well as case materials, by 4.30 pm.

Shahjahan Sheikh: Former Trinamool Congress leader suspended for six years (File).


The Bengal government has refused to hand over custody of Sheikh Shahjahan - the former Trinamool strongman accused of extortion, land grab, and sexual assault in Bengal's Sandeshkhali - to the CBI despite a Calcutta High Court order Tuesday to the police's criminal investigation department, or CID.

The court had directed the police to transfer custody of Shahjahan, as well as case materials, by 4.30 pm. At 7.30 pm a CBI team left the police HQ in Kolkata empty-handed. The reason - the state has approached the Supreme Court, and so refused to release Sheik Shahjahan till the top court's ruling.

The Bengal government had asked for an immediate hearing, but it was turned down. The Supreme Court directed senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the state, to mention its plea before the Registrar-General, in accordance with the rules.

Earlier today the High Court held the state police to be "totally biased" and called for a "fair, honest, and complete investigation" into the allegations against Shahjahan. "There can be no better case than this... which requires to be transferred (and) to be investigated by the CBI," it observed.

A High Court bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam set aside an earlier order setting up a special investigative team - of CBI and state police officials - and transferred the case to the central agency.

Both the Enforcement Directorate and the state moved separate challenges to that order; the ED wanted the case to be given to the CBI only, while the state wanted the police to handle the probe.

Sheikh Shahjahan had been on the run since January 5, when a team of Enforcement Directorate officials were attacked by a mob of his supporters while en route to conduct raids.

This evening the ED said it had provisionally attached movable and immovable assets worth Rs 12.78 crore in connection with the Sheikh Shahjahan case.

The attack and Shahjahan's disappearance sparked a huge political row; the ruling Trinamool was targeted by the BJP, which accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's party of protecting him.

On the run for 55 days, Shahjahan was finally arrested by a special police team and suspended from the Trinamool for six years. His arrest came three days after the High Court ordered his arrest.

READ | Sandeshkhali Accused Shahjahan, On The Run For 55 Days, Arrested

An angry court was responding to allegations by Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, who said the judiciary had "tied" the state's hands and that his party was not "guarding" the accused.

"I want to put this on record... Trinamool is not guarding Shahjahan. Judiciary is. Lift the stay and see what police does..." he said in response to the BJP.

READ | Arrest Trinamool Strongman Sheikh Shahjahan, Says Calcutta High Court

The court shot back, saying, "Shahjahan obviously needs to be arrested." "We clarify there is no stay on arrest in any proceeding. He is absconding."

READ | "Mutual Adjustment": BJP's Suvendu Adhikari On Shahjahan's Arrest

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari - a former Trinamool leader and close aide of Ms Banerjee - declared, "This is not an arrest; this is a mutual adjustment."

The Shahjahan-Sandeshkhali row was the focus of a sharp attack by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was in Bengal last week. Mr Modi also accused the Trinamool of shielding its former member, and slammed Ms Banerjee for valuing "some people" over the suffering of women.

READ | PM's Big Charge Against Mamata, INDIA Over Sandeshkhali

Referring to the party's 'Maa, Maati, Manush' (Mother, Land, and People) slogan, he declared, "What has been done to women in Sandeshkhali by Trinamool... has made the country angry."

With input from agencies

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