High Court Grants Protection To Probe Officers After Attack In Bengal

The attack on ED officers happened in Bengal when they to Shajahan Sheikh's house for a raid in connection with alleged irregularities in the state's ration system.

ED team attacked during a raid in Sandeshkhali's village of West Bengal.


The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted interim protection to Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials who were attacked by a mob when they went to search the premises of TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh at Sandeshkhali on January 5.

The protection came as Justice Rajasekhar Mantha ordered an interim stay on further proceedings by the state police on an FIR against those ED officials till March 31.

In the FIR, one Didar Baksh Molla, stated to be a caretaker of Sheikh's residence, accused the ED officials of theft, outraging modesty and beating up women and children when they went to raid Sheikh's house on January 5 in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam in West Bengal.

The ED moved the court praying for quashing of the FIR lodged at Nazat police station in North 24 Parganas district against its officials, claiming that false allegations were foisted on them.

The ED has stated that three of its officers were injured and their belongings were snatched in an attack on them at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district on January 5.

Three FIRs were registered on that day in connection with the incident.

The first FIR was lodged by Didar Baksh Molla, at 10.30 am, a second one was filed suo motu by the Nazat police on the incident on the basis of a general diary by a sub-inspector of the police station at 1.30 pm, while the third was by the ED at around 8.10 pm.

Justice Mantha noted that the suo motu police FIR states that around 3,000 people had gathered near the house of Sheikh.

The ED stated that its officials were attacked by the mob and they had to be rescued by the local police.

The suo motu FIR, however, has no mention of the accusations of theft, outraging of modesty and beating of women and children as alleged in the FIR by Molla, Justice Mantha said during the hearing.

Justice Mantha observed in the order that there is a clear inconsistency between the two FIRs which reveal completely different versions of the incident.

The court's mind is not free from doubt that the FIR registered on the complaint by Didar Baksh Molla) "may have been pre-timed based on a procured complaint, to show prior FIR on the same day against the officials of the ED," the Judge said.

He said that on the next date of hearing on January 22, the court wants to see the case diaries and the original documents of the two FIRs registered at Najat police station on January 5.

The court directed the state to file an affidavit to explain the inconsistencies in the two FIRs and disclose any other steps taken by the state to address any omission on the part of their officials by January 18. The ED was given liberty to file an affidavit in opposition to it before the next hearing.

The ED's counsels claimed that despite its complaint mentioning brutal attack on its officials including attempt to murder, milder sections under the IPC were given in the FIR registered by the police.

It was stated that vehicles of ED officials and accompanying CRPF personnel were also damaged by the mob.

Appearing for the ED through the virtual mode, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju submitted that a false and frivolous case was filed against the central agency's officials, while the fact is that the police had to rescue them from the mob who gheraoed and attacked them.

Deputy Solicitor General Dhiraj Trivedi submitted before the court that ED officials could not enter the house of Sheikh.

He stated that under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), a warrant is not required by the ED to conduct a search operation.

Trivedi submitted that after initially receiving an ED official's phone call on January 5 when the raid was about to begin at 7.15 am, Sheikh's mobile phones continued to remain engaged.

He said that the tower location and call records of Sheikh's mobile phones show that he was at the house and had made 28 calls within a short period.

It was also claimed that Sheikh was responsible for mobilising the attack on the ED officials.

Trivedi stated before the court that a copy of the FIR by Didar Baksh Molla was not made available to the ED and that the agency could get it from the Basirhat court on Wednesday, when they had already taken permission from another single bench of the high court to move a petition seeking protection from any coercive action.

Earlier on Thursday, the bench of Justice Jay Sengupta verbally directed that no coercive action can be taken till Monday against the ED officials involved in the raid.

Appearing for the state before the court of Justice Mantha, West Bengal Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted that if the complaint against the ED contained cognisable offence, a case had to be registered by the police.

He stated that the police are not obliged to check the veracity of the complaint while registering it and only after registration of the FIR, an investigation is taken up. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)