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Sandeshkhali 'atrocities': Shajahan Sheikh will be arrested in 7 days, assures TMC after HC clarification

The TMC leader's assertion comes immediately after the Calcutta High Court clarified that there is no stay on the arrest of Shajahan.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 09:51 IST

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the police to arrest TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh, accused of sexual atrocities and land grab in Sandeshkhali, following which the state's ruling party said that it does not shield culprits and he would be arrested within seven days.

Pulling up the Mamata Banerjee government, a division bench presided by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said it was surprising to note that "it has taken four years for 42 cases" to mature into charge sheets.

A fresh FIR was also lodged against Shiekh after over 70 complaints were filed against him, officials said.

The high court directed that Sheikh, the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI, the superintendent of police, and the state's home secretary representing the West Bengal government be impleaded as parties in the suo motu matter initiated on the allegations of sexual atrocities on women and the land grab of tribal people.

"Therefore, the said person shall be arrested by the concerned police authorities," the court directed.

Welcoming the direction, the TMC claimed that previous orders of the court had tied the hands of the police in arresting him.

"It was the Calcutta High Court order that barred investigating the registered FIRs. An arrest is the culmination of an investigation. If a court stays, you cannot even investigate. How can there be an arrest? If you read the previous court order, they stayed the order and posted the matter for hearing on March 6," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.

Noting that advocates appearing in the matter submitted that a wrong impression had been created that a stay had been granted by the court on the arrest of Sheikh, the bench said there is no such record.

The court said that it issued a stay on February 7 regarding the formation of a joint special investigation team to probe the attack on ED officials, as ordered by a single bench.

It had restrained the state police from proceeding with the investigation in the cases that were registered by them in connection with the attack.

ED officials were attacked when they went to search the premises of Sheikh on January 5 in connection with the alleged ration distribution scam. Three FIRs were filed at Nazat police station in North 24 Parganas district on January 5 -- one by an employee of Sheikh against the ED officials, another by the ED against Sheikh and his alleged accomplices, and a suo motu FIR by the police.

TMC's Ghosh said the opposition parties were indulging in politics using legal tangles in Sheikh's arrest as an opportunity.

"Thanks to the high court today for clarifying the matter, and allowing the police to take action. Shajahan will be arrested within seven days," he posted on X.

TMC's national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee had on Sunday made a similar assertion.

Meanwhile, in Sandeshkhali, TMC leader Ajit Maiti was arrested on the charge of land grabbing. He was produced before a court in Basirhat, which sent him to five days in police custody.

Fresh protests also rocked parts of the trouble-torn island on the outskirts of Sunderbans as locals ransacked the properties of local TMC leaders.

Armed with sticks, they attacked a few houses in the Bermajur area, venting their fury against TMC leader Shankar Sardar. He was not at home but his family members were beaten up.

Opposition parties have been accusing the TMC of shielding Sheikh, who has been on the run after the attack on ED on January 5.

At an event in New Delhi, Union Minister Smriti Irani said that what happened in Sandeshkhali is beyond the comprehension of any Indian.

"Can you imagine that the women who supported Mamata ji for years are now being abducted from their homes and raped," she alleged

"In Sandeshkhali, the people impacted are not those from the BJP but their own. They came for us first, now they are coming for their own," she added.

The minister also questioned the silence of the Congress on the issue.

"The alarming thing is that even though politicians from the Congress have been killed, even Congress people want to go there and talk but the 'shehzada', who is still lost in the maze of politics, has not said a word on this matter," Irani said.

State BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya alleged that the TMC was trying to shield Sheikh.

Rejecting the allegation, state Education Minister Bratya Basu said, "If the West Bengal Police can apprehend Saradha Group chief Sudipto Sen from Kashmir, they can certainly arrest Shajahan."

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(Published 26 February 2024, 09:51 IST)

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