The Calcutta High Court, while allowing the Writ filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), has handed over the custody of Sheikh Shahjahan to the ED and has also transferred the investigation in the FIRs relating attack against ED officials to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

On January 5, 2024, during the morning hours, ED Officials conducted a raid at the residence of Sheikh Shahjahan for search and seizure of the documents while investigating a money laundering case involving a public distribution system scam. During the raid, his followers and the local persons came in buses and about one to three thousand people gathered armed with sticks, bricks and stones and attacked the ED officials. Three ED officials were seriously injured and were hospitalized.

The present judgment was pronounced in two appeals, one filed by the ED and the other by the State of West Bengal. One Writ Petition was filed by the ED for the transfer of investigation of cases in Nazat and Bongaon Police Station to the CBI, which was disposed of by the Single Judge vide the impugned order constituting of Special Investigation Team consisting of officers of CBI and State Police. Aggrieved by the order, both CBI and the State of West Bengal preferred the intra-court appeals.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya observed, “The case which has been registered by ED, investigating into the public distribution system scam involves highly politically powerful persons which include the accused Shahjahan. Thus, what is required, is a fair, honest and complete investigation and this alone will retain the public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies. We have no hesitation in our mind to hold that this confidence has been shaken and there can be no better case than the case on hand which requires to be transferred to be investigated by CBI. It is a pitiable state of affairs when we hear the allegation made by ED that they were not even given the copy of the FIR registered based on their complaint in FIR No. 9 of 2024 and they were able to secure a certified copy only after they file the writ petition.”

ASGI S.V. Raju B and DSGI Dhiraj Trivedi appeared on behalf of the ED, ASGI Ashok Kumar Chakraborti appeared on behalf of the Union of India and Advocate General Kishore Dutta appeared on behalf of State Respondents.

The Court highlighted that the Accused Sheikh Shahjahan who was apprehended on February 29, 2024, after being on the run for more than 50 days is not an ordinary citizen. Thus, it had become imperative and necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights of the public in general and the public of the locality that the cases be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation for investigation and to proceed further.

The Court further held that “The order passed by the Ld. Single Bench constituting an SIT was stayed until further orders. It was made explicitly clear that the West Bengal State Police are restrained from proceeding with the investigation in the cases which have been registered by them. Despite such an order, the one case stood transferred to the CID, West Bengal who has issued notices dated 01.03.2024 under Section 91 and Section 160 CrPC. Thus, this act of the State Police would be sufficient to hold that the State Police are totally biased and every attempt is being made to delay the investigation in order to protect the accused who has been absconding for more than 50 days. The then absconding accused is stated to be a “strong man” in the locality and has very powerful connections in the ruling party apart from having been elected as a Karmadhaksya of Zilla Parishad, North 24 Parganas having been fielded as a candidate of the ruling dispensation. The State Police had played a “hide and seek” methodology in all probabilities to shield the accused who undoubtedly is a highly politically influential person who has demonstrably shown that he is and would be in a position to influence the investigation if allowed to rest with the State Police.”

Earlier, the High Court took suo moto cognizance in response to the newspaper reports of alleged sexual assault, violence, and land-grabbing cases in Sandeshkahli, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. The Court clarified that there is no interim order of stay of the arrest of Sheikh in any case before the court. The High Court had also expressed anguish and concern over the fact that in earlier cases of a similar nature, the Police Authorities took four years to file chargesheets and there was a delay in investigations/inquiries. Subsequently, the Sheikh was arrested.

The Counsels for the ED submitted that they have genuine apprehension about how the State machinery will conduct the investigation and there will be and have been systematic efforts by the State Police to destroy evidence and thwart the investigation. Thus, ED contended that their officers had been falsely implicated in the FIR at the behest of Sheikh Shahjahan for political reasons. Further, it was contended that due to the influence of politically influential persons, involved in the scam of distribution of the ration items, the State police to create pressure and hamper the ongoing investigation are taking all steps to thwart the entire process.

The Court relied on the judgments of the Apex Court in State of West Bengal and Ors v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Bimal Gurung v. Union of India, Dharam Pal v. State of Haryana and K.V. Rajendran v. Superintendent of Police.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the tender of mandamus appeals, set aside the order passed by the Single Bench and allowed the Writ Petition filed by the ED.

The court held, “The custody of the accused Sk. Shahjahan shall also forthwith be handed over to CBI. This direction shall be implemented by 4:30 P.M. today (05.03.2024). No costs. Connected applications stand disposed of.”

Cause Title: Enforcement Directorate, Kolkata Zonal Office I v. State of West Bengal and others and State of West Bengal and others v. Enforcement Directorate, Kolkata Zonal Office I


Enforcement Directorate: ASGI S.V. Raju, DSGI, Dhiraj Trivedi, Advocates Debjani Ray, Samrat Goswami, Ankit Khanna, Swapna Jha and Sohini Dey

Union of India: ASGI Ashok Kumar Chakraboti and Advocate T.P. Acharyya.

State of West Bengal: Advocate General Kishore Dutta and AGP Pantu Deb Roy

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