Bengal Cops Hand Over Sandeshkhali Strongman To CBI After Court Reprimand

The Enforcement Directorate has provisionally attached movable and immovable assets worth Rs 12.78 crore in connection with the Sheikh Shahjahan case.

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


Suspended Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan - the key accused in the Sandeshkhali extortion, land grab, and sexual assault cases - was transferred to the custody of the CBI Wednesday evening, capping a two-day stand-off between the Bengal government and the central agency.

On Tuesday the Calcutta High Court had ordered the state to hand over Shahjahan, and all case materials, to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The state was given till 4.30 pm but refused to comply, citing a last-gasp appeal at the Supreme Court, which had refused an urgent hearing.

When the CBI team reached Bengal Police's HQ in Kolkata, they were forced to return empty-handed. They were told Shahjahan would remain in police custody till the Supreme Court's ruling.

READ | Bengal, CBI In Stand-Off Over Shahjahan, Supreme Court Moved

This afternoon, an irate High Court set a new deadline - 4.15 pm. The court underlined the seriousness of the state disregarding an order passed by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam, and said, "Supreme Court has not ordered a stay. So Shahjahan must be handed over to the CBI by 4.15 pm..."

The High Court also issued a notice of contempt and asked Bengal Police's Criminal Investigation Department, which had custody of Sheikh Shahjahan, to file an affidavit within two weeks.

READ | CBI Team At Bengal Police HQ For Shahjahan As Deadline Ends

In yesterday's hearing the High Court held the police to be "totally biased" and called for a "fair, honest, and complete investigation" into 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.

Sheikh Shahjahan went on the run on January 5, the day a mob of his supporters attacked an Enforcement Directorate team. Nearly two months later, he was arrested - three days after the state's stand-off, this time with the High Court - and suspended from the Trinamool for six years.

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

The High Court on Tuesday ruled on separate pleas - from the ED and the state government - to its earlier order on the setting up of a team of CBI officials and cops. The ED wanted the case to be handled only by its central counterpart, while the police did not want the CBI involved at all.

In a separate development, the ED said it had provisionally attached movable and immovable assets worth Rs 12.78 crore in connection with the Sheikh Shahjahan case.

The Shahjahan-Sandeshkhali row has become a major flashpoint in the state weeks before the Lok Sabha election. The BJP has accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's government of shielding its former leader, while the Trinamool today pointed to former national wrestling body chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a sitting BJP MP who was accused of sexual assault by women wrestlers.

READ | On PM's Shahjahan Barbs, Trinamool's Brij Bhushan Counter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Bengal last week and, in his first public comment on the Sandeshkhali row, accused the Trinamool of shielding its former member.

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