Indian court orders probe into post-poll violence in Bengal

UNB, New Delhi

A higher court in Kolkata has slammed Mamata Banerjee's government for its alleged failure to prevent post-poll violence in West Bengal and ordered the National Human Rights Commission to probe all such complaints in the eastern state.

A five-judge bench of the High Court in Kolkata, led by acting chief justice Rajesh Bindal, gave the order on Friday, while disposing of a bunch of petitions alleging post-poll violence in Bengal.

In its order, the bench directed the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission to immediately form a special committee to examine all complaints of alleged human rights violations in post-poll violence in West Bengal and submit a report on the same to the court.

The court also asked the state government to provide all logistical support to the committee "wherever and whenever they wish to visit any place". "Any obstruction will be viewed seriously, which may entail action under the Contempt of Courts Act, besides others."

On the government's alleged failure in controlling post-poll violence in Bengal, the court observed: "It is the duty of the state to maintain law and order in the state and inspire confidence in the residents of the state."

UNB had earlier reported about as many as 16  deaths in post-poll violence in Bengal, which prompted the Indian Home Ministry to seek a report from the state administration.

In fact, on May 6, a day after she was sworn in as the chief minister of Bengal for the third time, Mamata announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each for the families of 16 people killed in post-poll violence in the state.

"At least 16 persons -- mostly from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool -- died in post-poll violence. We will pay a compensation of Rs two lakh to their family members," she had said.

Appealing for calm, Mamata had also asked her supporters not to indulge in any violence. "Bengal is a peace-loving place. During the elections, there has been some heat and dust and calm. The BJP did a lot of torture. But I appeal to all for calm."

Bucking anti-incumbency, Mamata scripted history on May 2 by single-handedly pulling off an astounding victory in the assembly election, staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP but also decimated the Left Front.

Though her party swept back to power with a resounding majority of 213 seats in the 292-member assembly, the 66-year-old lost her own seat in Nandigram to her former protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari by a thin margin of around 2,000 votes.

Bengal witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.