Chronological progress of Nandigram case (PIL filed by Association of Lawyers of Calcutta High Court against the State)

July 27, 2007

A detailed reverse chronological background of the case is presented below.

July 19 – Nandigram hearing concludes

Hearing of the Nandigram carnage case which had begun in Calcutta High Court 18 days ago concluded today. The Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr S.S.Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose has heard the case.

Appearing for the High Court Bar Association and the Incorporated Law Society Mr Kashi Kanta Maitra replied to the Advocate-General’s submission on the Nandigram police firing on 14 March. He said this court had passed an order on 15 March directing the CBI to send a team of officers to Nandigram for collection of evidence. There was no direction in that order that the CBI should make the inquiry within seven days. But the CBI had actually submitted its report within seven days. Why and how had the CBI stopped its inquiry beyond seven days ? As the CBI had halted the inquiry the inquiry remained incomplete. Mr Maitra prayed for an order directing the CBI to make further inquiry and complete the investigation and submit a full report.

He said the state government had filed an affidavit justifying the police firing in Nandigram. After filing this affidavit the Government had ordered an administrative inquiry into the Nandigram incident by the Divisional Commissioner, Burdwan. So the Divisional Commissioner was not expected to ignore the Government stand on the police firing and say something contrary to it. Sardar Amzad Ali, Mr Kalyan Bandopadhyaya, Mr Joymalya Bagchi and Mr Idris Ali also replied to the AG’s submission on the police firing.
The court adjourned verdict.


July 17:

Resuming his reply to the Advocate-General’s submission in the Nandigram carnage case Mr Sakti Nath Mukherjee today said that the peculiarity of the charge levelled in this PIL was that the State itself was guilty of sponsoring terrorism. Even RSP had called it state-sponsored terrorism, he observed. Mr Mukherjee was making his submission before Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court.

This carnage, Mr Mukherjee said, had been contrived by the State to promote its proposal for land acquisition in the locality. The local people were not agreeable. They wanted to protect their hearth and home as well as their livelihood in their own area. They were attacked from three sides and this resulted in at least 14 deaths. This was a special case to be dealt with in special jurisdiction.

It was contended on behalf of the petitioners that in this instance, the alleged offences arose out of violation of fundamental rights and were required to be dealt with in the public law jurisdiction and not according to ordinary criminal law procedure.

Mr Mukherjee raised the question whether the right to life and personal liberty could be left to be determined by an executive magistrate or a police officer. It was not the law that merely because some people were allegedly members of a so-called unlawful assembly they should be denuded of their fundamental rights and deprived of their life and liberty
Hearing continues.


July 12 – A-G’s stand on Nandigram, KOLKATA

On the fourth and concluding day of his submission in the Nandigram carnage case before the Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court today, Advocate-General, Mr Balai Ray stated that the CBI has no legal power to investigate any aspect of the police firing at Nandigram on 14 March.
He pointed out that the CBI cannot inquire into the matter since inquiry is a defined word in the Code of Criminal Procedure which provides that an inquiry must be made by a magistrate on the subject before the court. The State had not given consent to a CBI inquiry as the question did not arise because there was no cognizable offence to be investigated.


July 11 – Police norms were followed in Nandigram: Govt

It is the case of the state government that the Police Regulations are valid and that the police firing at Nandigram on 14 March was strictly in conformity with those Regulations. So the court has no justifiable case before it, advocate-general Mr Balai Ray told the Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court today.
Resuming his argument in the Nandigram carnage case, Mr Ray stated that the petitioners’ submission was that in addition to Article-21 of the Constitution, the covenant of civil and political rights, 1966, restrained the State from using force to take away life except in compelling circumstances. They relied on the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly to that effect.

The AG said the law relating to international covenant to which India is a signatory and that of the resolution of the Bengal Assembly were now well settled. The law is that the State was bound by its own laws and not by the international covenant as such. Each covenant can be used mainly for two purposes: interpreting ambiguous and unclear statutes and secondly for elucidating fundamental rights in cases where consistent with the fundamental rights envisaged in the covenant it may be included to enlarge the scope of fundamental rights. Article-21 is clear and as such, reliance of the petitioners on the covenant or the resolution of the General Assembly was not relevant.

It was further submitted on behalf of the State that a public interest litigation enlarged the scope of access to justice. A person who is not injured may through a friend or relation, who is interested in the case, may file a PIL on behalf of such person. But this does not mean that there has been any change in justifiability of a litigation when it is filed as a PIL.

Facts stated by the State even in the domain of public law cannot be adjudicated unless contrary reliable facts are brought on record. Referring to the petitions and affidavits of the petitioners, Mr Ray pointed out that none of the petitioners or deponents were present at the place of firing at Nandigram on 14 March, 2007. The Police Regulations were valid. The court has no justifiable case before it. The AG appeared with the additional AG, Mr Nisith Adhikary; pleader Mr Sobhanlal Hazra and the additional government pleader, Mr Sandip Srimani.


July 10 – Advocate-General justifies govt stand on Nandigram

Resuming his argument in the Nandigram carnage case before the Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court today Advocate-General, Mr Balai Ray today answered the petitioners’ submission that the Police Regulation was not law within the meaning of Article 21 by relying on Article 13 (3)(a) of the Constitution as also Articles 272 and 366 (10) of the Constitution. Reliance was also placed on Section 3 (51) of the General Clauses Act. Several decisions of the Supreme Court and several High Courts in support of the State’s submission were also relied on. Another submission of the petitioners was that the Police Regulation of Bengal was ultra vires Article 21 of the Constitution. The AG said the Police Regulations, 150 to 156, were a complete code and were in conformity with the law laid down in Maneka Gandhi case.

Each Regulation was placed before the court and Mr Ray stated that these Regulations had framed a scheme causing minimal injury to a riotous assembly.

He also explained the procedure laid down for giving arms to police and their use.The Regulations made to conduct a volatile situation created by an unlawful and violent mob were neither arbitrary nor unreasonable, he added.

Hearing continues.


July 9 – State justifies use of force in Nandigram

The police power of the State is a sovereign power and it can be exercised even when a new law has been framed in accordance with Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution to use force subject to Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Advocate-General, Mr Balai Ray, made this submission in the Nandigram carnage case before the Division Bench of the Chief Justice Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose of Calcutta High Court today.

Mr Ray said the condition prevailing in the area between 3 January and 14 March this year was that of a “liberated zone.” No civil administration was permitted to function. Ordinary people were prevented from exercising their fundamental and civil rights. Police were prevented from investigating at least 6 cases of murder, 19 arsons and more than 30 cases of rioting and possession of illegal arms. Whenever the police approached they were prevented by violent crowds in some thousand. This fact has not been seriously disputed by any of the petitioners or deponents affirming separate affidavits.

The Advocate-General stated that maintenance of public order was a constitutional duty of the State. The State in exercise of its sovereign police power was entitled to use force subject to Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The source of substantive power of the police to use force which may lead to firing was available from the Code of Civil Procedure,1973, in particular Sections 129 to 131 of the CrPC. The extent of the use of force necessary can be ascertained from the empowerment of the Army to disperse unlawful assemblies when it is necessary. These sections contemplate on justified occasions for the police to fire to disperse unlawful assemblies which refuse to disperse even after the police command them to disperse. Mr Ray further submitted that the Supreme Court has held that the CrPC, even if it violates Article 21 of the Constitution,is valid law.
Hearing continues.


June 15 – ‘Nandigram carnage illegal’

Appearing as a petitioner in the Nandigram carnage case today Mr Kalyan Bandopadhyaya told Calcutta HC that the police firing of 14 March in which 14 persons were killed and the firing by CPI-M cadres on and before that date had violated Article 21 of the Constitution and were illegal. His comment on the status report on Nandigram submitted to the court yesterday by the state government was partly correct, partly wrong.

Arguing before the Division Bench of the Chief Justice Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose Mr Bandopadhyaya gave a long list of incidents that had happened in Nandigram from 3 January to 14 March this year. After the Haldia Development Authority had issued a notification for acquisition of land for a chemical hub people had started agitating against such land acquisition. On 3 January they demonstrated in front of the panchayat office. The police fired and four persons were injured. On 7 January CPI-M cadres fired and three persons were killed. Complaints were lodged with the police but the police took no action. On 15 January those cadres opened their camps in differrent areas of Nandigram. On 12 February the chief minister announced at a meeting that no land would be taken from any person who was unwilling to sell his land. But next day Mr Lakshman Seth, chairman, HDA told a Press conference that land would be taken at any cost. People again began to agitate against it. Between 19 February and 7 March no untoward incident took place. On 8 March CPI-M cadres again started firing. Complaints were lodged with the police but the police took no step. On 10 March the DM said the administration would take steps for repairing the roads at any cost. It was a provocation. On 12 March about 3,000 policemen had been brought from outside. Next day a Trinamul Congress MLA sent a fax message to the CM requesting him to stop the police operation. On 14 March the police fired and as a result 14 persons were killed, 164 injured and 27 persons were missing. The same evening three women were raped. On 15 March at 11-15 a.m. the HC passed an order directing the CBI to inquire into the police firing. An hour later, at 12-15 the CM accepted the court’s order. After some days the CBI submitted its inquiry report. So now the Advocate-General cannot raise any objection to a CBI investigation.

Hearing continues.


May 4:

At a time when CPI-M mandarins at Alimuddin Street are busy blaming the Opposition for the continuing violence in Nandigram, the government they lead has a different story to tell.
The home department’s status report that was placed before Calcutta High Court yesterday has directly held CPI-M cadres responsible for the violence in at least three cases. The report also makes it clear that CPI-M cadres in Nandigram are well armed.

First instance: On 7 April about 300 CPI-M supporters entered Satangabari under Amdabad gram panchayat of Nandigram police station stating that Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) members were threatening supporters of CPI-M, says the report. Thereafter, BUPC supporters also rallied and attacked CPI-M supporters and bombs were hurled by both sides. The warring groups left when police reached the spot. However, no complaint was lodged in Nandigram police station over this incident.

Second instance: On 30 April, Trinamul MP Mr Mukul Roy and other leaders of the party were being escorted by police to Nandigram where they were supposed to hold a public meeting. On the way, CPI-M supporters blocked their way and damaged the escort vehicle, the report says. Police, however, managed to escort the Trinamul leaders to the spot where the meeting was held.
Third instance: On 1 May, about 70 members from the Forum of Artistes, cultural activists and intellectuals were going to Nandigram to distribute relief material among the affected people. When they were returning, they were stopped and assaulted by CPI-M supporters, the report says. Their vehicle was also damaged.

Although the status report cites several instances where BUPC members had indulged in violence, even top CPI-M leaders seem to be unaware that their own men have been exposed as well.
Asked about the attack on intellectuals and artistes on 1 May, former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu said: “I don’t know who were involved in the violence. I will ask for a report from the party.”
CPI-M allies in the Left Front have also reacted to the status report, adding to the discomfiture of the party.

RSP leader and PWD minister Mr Kshiti Goswami termed the status report submitted by the state government holding CPI-M supporters responsible for at least three attacks as a “damage-control exercise” by the chief minister to wipe clean his image after the carnage on 14 March.

“When somebody tells a lie then a hundred dissenting voices contradict that lie. So perhaps, they have thought that it is time to tell the truth as part of damage control exercise,” said Mr Goswami.
Veteran CPI leader and minister Mr Nandagopal Bhattacharya said the status report had left him “confused” and “stunned”. “We were being told a different story all along. But after the status report was submitted by the home secretary there is no scope for any more one-line conclusion that the Opposition was responsible for the mindless violence in Nandigram.”


March 15:

Calcutta High Court today ordered the Director of the CBI, West Bengal to immediately depute a special team to Nandigram and adjoining areas, collect relevant material and submit a report to it.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose passed this order suo motu after considering a letter written by Ms Medha Patkar on the Nandigram incident, a report and a photograph published in a local daily and the Governor’s reaction. Before issuing the order the Bench had asked for suggestions from lawyers who said that in the context of the Governor’s statement the situation called for judicial intervention.

The Bench restrained state respondents from preventing petitioner organisations, other NGOs and voluntary aid organisations from reaching Nandigram to provide assistance to injured persons and families of the persons killed.

The HC directed the administration to ensure that the unclaimed bodies were handed to the appropriate authorities and the identified bodies were handed over to the lawful claimants after the legal formalities were completed, so that relatives could perform the last rites. The court observed that prima facie, innocents had been shot by uniformed police officers, in a wholly indefensible manner.
“Prima facie we are satisfied that this action of the police department is wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of law… Such kind of force cannot be justified except in cases of armed insurgency or warlike situation. Innocent farmers and villagers can hardly be put into the aforesaid bracket. We take serious note of the observation made by His Excellency, the Governor of West Bengal when he said, “I am filled with cold horror.”


5 Responses to “Chronological progress of Nandigram case (PIL filed by Association of Lawyers of Calcutta High Court against the State)”

  1. Garga Chatterjee Says:
    July 27th, 2007 at 17:41

    (2)The court will order a judician enquiry.It wll safely evade the conspiracy theories CPM has put up with the CBI but will not back down on its earlier judicial activism, given the prima facie merits of the case.

  2. sumit Says:
    July 28th, 2007 at 00:23

    Option (ii). I agree with Garga – that seems to be the most pragmatic way for things to turn out.

  3. upamanyu Says:
    July 28th, 2007 at 04:22

    i think 3, since it is the most open ended, but doubt the relevance of such a case and its implications for the future.

  4. shovon roy Says:
    November 8th, 2007 at 02:24

    I would like to draw your attention to the perils of the hapless villagers who go to sleep with the sound of bombs and firing of bullets and wake up-i.e. if they are able to sleep at all-with the smell of gun powder,the flowing of blood, procession of dead bodies and the spine-chilling wails of unfortunate people. I am a Calcuttan who is living in Haldia in East Midnapore-the district in which the by-now infamous Nandigram is in-for quite sometime now due to my profession. Thus due to geographical proximity to the troubled spot I get the opportunity to meet a lot of people who hail from that cursed land called Nandigram.
    Seeing various reports on the television,newspapers and most importantly getting to hear from the horse’s mouth I believe I’ve become quite abreast of the situation and have been able to decipher where the root of the trouble lies.
    Nandigram, as we all know has a long history of protesting against injustice and not giving in to coercion. It may be recalled that the place wher Nandigram is today had resisted the British empire and had set up their own free state-Tamralipta with its own national flag-even when the whole of India was chained by the British rule. One of India’s biggest women freedom fighters, Matangini Hazra-whose large statue can be found in the heart of Calcutta, hails from this place. So, it was nothing new when Haldia CPM MP Lakshman Seth issued a notice under the instructions of Mr.Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, that land in Nandigram will be acquired for setting up a comprehensive ‘Chemical Hub’ over 25,000 acres of land. The villagers were quite naturally perplexed, because most of the people living here were half or uneducated paesants who had no other means of livelihood except for tilling of land which they have been doing for generations….They started protesting the takeover of their farmland and houses(how can houses be left out as they come in the same area) by bringing out processions and guarding their lands in shifts saying they will protect their land till the last drop of blood. On the 6th of January, Benoy Konar, who ironically is the CPM’s farmer wing’s leader roared:” If they(Nandigram people) don’t allow us to make industry there, we’ll make their life HELL”. That he did when on the very next day, firings started from the other side of Tekhali bridge which left 7 people dead, a majority of whom were minority Muslims.A lot of water flowed down the Haldi river,which flows by Nandigram and the farmers became more firm in their resolve not to give away their livelihood and then, came the red letter day March 14, which has become the most infamous day after April 19(the day in which General Dyre opened fire on innocent protesters in Jallianwala Bagh).
    On March 14, the police marched in with CPM armed men in tow and opened fire on innocent villagers killing atleast 30 innocent villagers(although the official figure shows a mere 14). Let me tell you even small children were torn apart by policemen and thrown into the tretches dug up by farmland acquisition protesters and after putting sand sacks on them, police drove their Mahindra jeeps over them.
    And from then on Buddha has been forced to withdraw his plan of a ‘Chemical hub’(whose name we had never heard till last year) from Nandigram due to national and international pressure.But knowing the egoist he is, he did not take it down well having to eat crow. He thereafter turned a blind eye and withdrew all his police force from that area,when his party men started to take revenge of their CM’s humiliation. A few months went peacefully and people felt everything was gradually coming to normal. But only a few sinister men at Alimuddin street and some of their comrades in Khejuri knew that it was just the lull before the “HELL”storm. It was the time taken by the CPM to accumulate in Khejuri(opposite Nandigram) armed criminals from all across the state and also from neighbouring Bihar and Jharkhand to teach these unarmed, helpless, poor villagers the lesson of their lives. This has started for the 4-5 months and they would be killing 2-3 sometimes 4-5 villagers everyday by firing from long range rifles and even machine guns and burning their homes in the middle of the night, not to mention the not so ocassional pelting of bombs.This has been continuing and has increased rather then decreased. Public speeches by leaders like Brinda Karat asking to give the villagers Dumdum Dawai(the thrashing of their lives) have not helped the cause.
    Whatever I have written is just the tip of the iceberg. You should come to Nandigram and see to believe the plight and misery they are in, how thousands of villagers have been rendered homeless and how thousands of women and children heve been rendered shelterless and are living without food. Just spare a moment for them.
    Before ending, I would urge the central or state govt. just for humanity’s sake please do something for these people urgently. I know if the state govt would have honestly wanted this violence to have stopped, they could have done it in a day, but I still believe better sense would prevail on those that matter.
    O yes, and before ending I must also add that I am no Trinamul or Congress worker or supporter- as anybody raising a voice against the govt is deemed here by the CPM-but an engineer working in a reputed organization.

  5. sr Says:
    November 18th, 2007 at 10:07

    Keeping in the spirit of : “paying back on the same coin” message being glorified by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in context of the barbarism perpetarted by his henchmen, I hope that he has to say the same thing when one of the relatives or friends of the “raped or killed” Nandigram villagers either tries to assassinate the new “Buddha Bhattacharya Don” of the MafiaRaj he is heading in West Bengal…..OR kidnap & rape Buddha Bhattacharya’s daughter & wife….just to keep the eye for an eye “paying back on the same coin” balance.

    Though the thought or possibility rings as utterly immoral, I guess as the helpless peasants & villagers of Nandigram have faced painful slaughter, rape, pillage that were perpetrated by the mercenaries : Lakshman Seth, of the CPI-M, it is utterly justified as has been shown by the shameless & unconscionable press conference comment by this sociopathic & murderous fiend Bengal has for Chief Minister. Get ready for “payback time” Buddhadeb Bhattacharya…it will come back to you in a more ghastly way than you have ever imagined in your worst nightmare!!