22 Jan 2022 6:14 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday appointed Advocate General S.N Mookherjee to conduct a thorough probe into the case wherein an undertrial had allegedly gone missing from judicial remand at the Presidency Correctional Home. The Court was adjudicating upon a Habeas Corpus Plea filed by one Buddhadeb Bhowmick alleging that his father (an accused in a criminal case) had gone missing from...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday appointed Advocate General S.N Mookherjee to conduct a thorough probe into the case wherein an undertrial had allegedly gone missing from judicial remand at the Presidency Correctional Home. The Court was adjudicating upon a Habeas Corpus Plea filed by one Buddhadeb Bhowmick alleging that his father (an accused in a criminal case) had gone missing from the Presidency Correctional Home just before he was scheduled to be released on bail under the Court's order.
A Bench comprising Justices T. S. Sivagnanam and Hiranmay Bhattacharyya on Friday observed that an independent person was required to probe into the matter and accordingly remarked,
"Considering all these factors, we are of the opinion that an independent person should probe into the matter as the famous the adage goes "that the police cannot be polished". Therefore, we entrust this responsibility to the learned Advocate General of the State of West Bengal."
The Bench further opined that in case the Advocate General finds it difficult to probe into the matter on account of his busy schedule, he should nominate an officer in the rank of the Director-General of Police, who does not exercise any control over the correctional home in question. The nominated officer was directed to conduct a thorough probe into the matter and place a report before the Court in a sealed cover.
On the previous date of hearing, dissatisfied with the initial report filed by Superintendent, Presidency Correctional Home, the Court had directed the authorities to trace the man and present a further report in the matter. The Court had found it surprising that the report was silent as to the time when the accused was taken to the Presidency Correctional Home and ultimately the time when the accused was finally released.
On Friday, the Court took on record a further report dated January 6, 2022 filed by the Superintendent, Presidency Correctional Home pursuant to the Court's earlier order. According to the report, the digital video recorder, which was installed in the Correctional Home from which the CCTV footage was directed to be produced was stated to be not functional.
Furthermore, the Superintendent of the Correctional Home submitted that they had requested an expert to examine it however the expert had apparently stated that the relevant data cannot be recovered from it. The Superintendent further averred that they are contemplating sending it to the Central Forensic Laboratory, Hyderabad. However, the digital video recorder has not been sent and it is available with the officers, who are present in Court, the Court noted further.
Pursuant to the perusal of the report filed, the Bench further observed,
"As noted by the Division Bench in its order dated 30th December, 2021, there is more than one version as regards the whereabouts of the missing person, Ranjit Bhowmick...The report, which has been submitted before the Court dated 6th January, 2022 by the Superintendent, Presidency Correctional Home gives a slightly different set of facts. Two registers were produced before us to demonstrate that the accused was released on 21st December, 2021 at 7:52 p.m. and the register shows an entry by order of P. Roy (AC)."
The Bench further remarked that there exists 'a good possibility of an insertion being made' in the registers as the registers were in the custody of the Superintendent of the Presidency Correctional Home and his officers. Opining that it is essential that other records are also examined in order to verify the averments made by the Superintendent of the Correctional Home, the Bench remarked further,
"In our prima facie view, much importance and credence cannot be given to the registers as the registers were in the custody of the Superintendent of the Presidency Correctional Home and his officers. We are not here to say that there has been an insertion but we can always say that there is a good possibility of an insertion being made. Therefore, unless the other records are compared to examine as to whether the stand taken by the respondent is factually correct or not, a conclusion cannot be arrived at."
Accordingly, the Court directed for all papers connected to the Habeas Corpus petition to be placed before the Advocate General including the copies of the reports filed by the Superintendent, Presidency Correctional Home as well as the report of the Officer-in-Charge, Alipore Police Station dated December 21, 2021. Two original registers and the DVR, which have been brought before us by Aniruddha Gupta, Chief Controller, and Pinak Roy, Assistant Controller, Presidency Correctional Home, who are present in Court, shall be forthwith handed over in the office of the learned Advocate General, the Court ordered further.
"The digital video recorder shall be retained in the office of the Learned Advocate General and as and when the officer in the rank of Director General of Police is nominated by the learned Advocate General, DVR can be handed over to him for examination", it was directed further.
The matter is slated to be heard next on February 11.
Buddhadeb Bhowmick has claimed that his father, Ranjit Bhowmik, who had been arrested by the West Bengal police in connection with a case of alleged possession of spurious liquor, is presently under illegal detention of the Respondent Authorities as he has already been granted bail by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Uluberia on December 21, 2021.
In his plea, he has alleged that on December 21, his father was produced before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Uluberia, when a bail petition was moved and after being satisfied, his father was directed to be enlarged on bail upon fulfilling of certain conditions. Thereafter, the plea averred that the Advocate had completed all the formal documentation and asked the Petitioner to visit the Presidency Jail at Alipore at 10 A.M. on 22.12.2021 to get his father released, however, when he reached there, the Petitioner was informed that his father has been released on 21 December itself.
Against this backdrop, the plea claims that till date there is no trace of his father and that he is running from pillar to post to find the whereabouts of his Father. In light of this, the Petitioner moved the High Court with an apprehension that his father may have died in custody and the Respondent authorities are hiding such a fact.
It may be noted that his father was transferred from Uluberia sub-divisional correctional home to Presidency in Kolkata on December 12, after his health deteriorated, from where, it has been alleged, the corpus has gone missing.
Advocates Srijib Chakraborty and Suryaneel Das appeared for the petitioner. Senior Advocate Amitesh Banerjee and Advocates Anirban Ray, Raja Saha, Biswabrata Basu Mallick and Debasish Ghosh appeared for the State.
Case title - Buddhadeb Bhowmick v. The State of West Bengal & Ors.
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