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Comment

Police and Prosecution

A Correspondent

When a public prosecutor appeals to the court for permission to withdraw a case against the prime accused and a number of the other accused, in an incident of murder, although the dying declaration of the victim clearly named the prime accused as the main culprit, it only speaks of the collusion between the killers, and the prosecutor. The matter is more intriguing for two reasons. First of all, the victim himself is a police officer. Secondly, although the police has shown the prime accused, who is an important local leader of the ruling party of West Bengal as well as an important functionary of the local panchayet samity, as absconding, he is reportedly moving freely in his locality. On 3 June 2014, a team of policemen from the nearby Dubrajpur police station, Birbhum, went to a spot near a village named Aulia-Gopalpur after being informed of a law and order problem. The policemen were led by a sub-inspector named Amit Chakraborty. While patrolling on the highway they saw a fairly large group of people coming there from the opposite direction. As per Amit Chakraborty's dying declaration, he had asked their leader not to hurl bombs. But they did, and Chakraborty sustained serious injuries. He succumbed to these injuries on 28 July. In his statement, Chakraborty named Sheikh Alim, the public works karmadhyakhsa of the block panchayet samity, whom he had recognized and asked not to throw bombs. But, as Chakraborty said, Alim refused to oblige. That very night, a posse of policemen went to the area, and arrested some persons of the Gopalpur village, who, as reported to this Correspondent, quarreled with the police for their alleged failure to maintain law and order. The police also conducted a search for Moktul Hossain, known to be a CPI(M) fellow, and issued a warrant against him. While in hiding, Moktul said in an interview with a leading English daily that the assailants had come to kill him, and but for the courage displayed by Amit Chakraborty, his life would not have been saved. Yet Moktul was made an accused of the case, and after some time, he obtained anticipatory bail from the Calcutta High Court. Sheikh Alim could not be arrested, although he was reportedly seen in the small municipal town where the police station is located only a few days after the incident.

It is clear that he was made an accused because it was not possible to brush aside or tamper with the dying statement of the victim. Hence the police adopted the second-best solution of not trying to arrest him.

Although there are altogether 50 accused, the police have succeeded in arresting only 16 of them, one of whom has died in prison. More surprise was in store for those who watched the case with some interest. About two weeks ago, the public prosecutor asked the court to grant permission to delete the names of 36 of the accused, including Sheikh Alim, arguing that he had come to learn from his personal investigation that they were innocent. It simply means that even the dying declaration of the killed was not to be relied upon. En passant, it may be mentioned that the names of 12 of those 36 accused were mentioned in the dying declaration of Chakraborty. The attitude of the public prosecutor naturally raised angry reactions from the family of the deceased, as well as from one section of lawyers, and one section of middle and lower rung policemen also. The wife of the deceased came over from North Bengal to Suri, the district town of Birbhum, and sought to be a party in the case. The same English daily reproduced a paragraph from the dying statement of the victim and exposed the falsity of the public prosecutor's prayer. The Save Democracy Forum also staged a demonstration against withdrawal. Finally, on 19 January, the public prosecutor, finding his position too slippery, withdrew the prayer. One may feel sorry for the public prosecutor who has exposed himself as a contemptible and unintelli-gent lackey of the vested interests but has failed to achieve his desired objective. But the question why the police have as yet failed to arrest the prime accused remains and continues to haunt all those interested in the case.

20.01.2016

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 31, Feb 7 - 13, 2016