High Court To Bengal Government

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Former Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan suspended for six years (File).

Kolkata:

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday handed custody of Sheikh Shahjahan – the former Trinamool strongman accused of extortion, land grab, and sexual assault in Bengal’s Sandeshkhali – to the CBI.

Bengal Police have till 4.30 pm to hand over Shahjahan and all relevant case materials.

The Bengal government moved swiftly to challenge the order in the Supreme Court, but its appeal for an immediate hearing has been turned down. The top court said it would proceed per the rules and asked senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi to mention the plea before its Registrar-General.

A High Court bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam set aside an earlier order setting up a special investigative team – of CBI and state police officials – and transferred the case to the central agency.

Both the Enforcement Directorate and the state moved separate challenges to that order; the ED wanted the case to be given to the CBI only, while the state wanted the police to handle the probe.

Sheikh Shahjahan had been on the run since January 5, when a team of Enforcement Directorate officials were attacked by a mob of his supporters while en route to conduct raids.

The attack and Shahjahan’s disappearance sparked a huge political row; the ruling Trinamool was targeted by the BJP, which accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party of protecting him.

On the run for 55 days, Shahjahan was finally arrested by a special police team and suspended from the Trinamool for six years. His arrest came three days after the High Court ordered his arrest.

READ | Sandeshkhali Accused Shahjahan, On The Run For 55 Days, Arrested

An angry court was responding to allegations by Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, who said the judiciary had “tied” the state’s hands and that his party was not “guarding” the accused.

“I want to put this on record… Trinamool is not guarding Shahjahan. Judiciary is. Lift the stay and see what police does…” he had said in response to the BJP’s allegations.

READ | Arrest Trinamool Strongman Sheikh Shahjahan, Says Calcutta High Court

The court shot back, saying, “Shahjahan obviously needs to be arrested.” “We clarify there is no stay on arrest in any proceeding. He is absconding,” the court declared.

READ | “Mutual Adjustment”: BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari On Shahjahan’s Arrest

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari – a former Trinamool leader and close aide of Ms Banerjee – declared, “This is not an arrest; this is a mutual adjustment.”

The Shahjahan-Sandeshkhali row was the focus of a sharp attack by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was in Bengal last week. Mr Modi also accused the Trinamool of shielding its former member, and slammed Ms Banerjee for valuing “some people” over the suffering of women.

READ | PM’s Big Charge Against Mamata, INDIA Over Sandeshkhali

Referring to the party’s ‘Maa, Maati, Manush‘ (Mother, Land, and People) slogan, he declared, “What has been done to women in Sandeshkhali by Trinamool… has made the country angry.”

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