A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court has upheld an order of a Single Judge for CBI Investigation into the Congress leader Tapan Kandu's murder case. Tapan Kandu was shot dead a few days after being elected as Councillor of Jhalda Municipality in the Municipal Election.

The Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj held that there is no error in the order of the Single Judge directing CBI investigation and no case for interference was made out in the appeal filed by the state.

The wife and nephew of Tapan Kandu had filed a writ Petition making serious allegations about the biased and misdirected investigation into the murder case of Tapan Kandu, with a prayer to hand over the investigation to an independent agency. It was alleged that Tapan Kandu was elected as Councillor of Jhalda Municipality on the Indian National Congress symbol and since the day of declaration of elections, the Inspector-inCharge, Jhalda Police Station had resorted to various unfair means to resist the candidates from contesting against the ruling party of the appellant State and at his behest, numerous false and frivolous criminal proceedings were also initiated against the contesting candidates of INC and other political parties.

It was further alleged that after the publication of results on March 10, 2022, the very next day on March 11, 2022, Tapan Kandu was called by the Inspector-in Charge, Jhalda Police Station and was threatened and forced to change his allegiance from the INC and to switch over to TMC so that the TMC can form the board. This was resisted by Tapan Kandu, and he was shot dead on March 13, 2022.

Allegedly, no FIR was lodged and in spite of making the named complaint at the first instance after the incident, the FIR at the instance of some other person was registered to protect the real culprit. Allegations were made in the writ petition against the police authorities of Jhalda Police Station of pressurizing the writ petitioner and influencing the witnesses. It was further alleged that Tapan Kandu was murdered by the goons of the ruling party in connivance with the Inspector-in-Charge of the Police Station and in this background, the prayer for investigation by an independent agency was made.

The Single Judge after taking note of the circumstances of the case, found it to be a fit case to direct the CBI to take over the investigation in the case and had accordingly issued requisite directions in this regard while disposing of the writ petition.

Advocate General, S.N. Mookherjee, appearing for the appellants-state of West Bengal submitted that the Single Judge committed an error in giving a finding at that stage about the motive of the murder and that there was no allegation against the Investigating Officer and that the Single Judge noted that the investigation was in progress, therefore, there was no justification to hand over the investigation to the CBI. He further submitted that there was no proof of biased investigation.

On the other hand, Advocate Koustav Bagchi, appearing for writ petitioners argued that the initial complaint of the wife of the deceased was not taken into consideration and that the witnesses were threatened. In this regard, he referred to the complaint made by the witness to the Superintendent of Police. It was also alleged that one of the accused was arrested from the adjoining State of Jharkhand and hence the case had interstate ramifications. He pointed out that the investigation was not carried out in a fair manner by the State Investigating Agency.

He further submitted that after the incident, one of the eyewitnesses died mysteriously. It was submitted that on account of the delay in registering the FIR, the vital evidence was wiped off and that the statements of the writ petitioners were recorded only after the writ petition was filed.

Advocate Billwadal Bhattacharyya, appearing for CBI, pointed out that in compliance of the order of the Single Judge, CBI took over the investigation and the investigation was in progress.

The Court observed that the law in respect of the extent of jurisdiction, limitations and the power to direct investigation by the CBI in exercise of the writ jurisdiction was well settled. The Court also noted that in order to do complete justice in the matter and to instil confidence in public mind, investigation by the CBI can be directed in appropriate case.

The Court further observed that the order of the Single Judge directing CBI investigation was made after taking note of catena of judgments.

The Court also noted that the direction to hand over the investigation to the CBI was issued by the Single Judge after taking note of some important aspects including the following:

• That the main accused in the case were police officers and a Councillor of the ruling party, hence, investigation and prosecution by the State Police would not send the proper message.

• That the person, who was stated by the complainant to have facilitated the crime, i.e. the Inspector-in-Charge of Jhalda Police Station, was not taken into custody till now and was performing his official duties and that his mobile phone was not seized till date which may have resulted in loss of vital data.

• That the two political parties, i.e., the INC and the ruling party had won five seats each in the Jhalda Municipal Elections and two other seats were won by independent candidates and that the death of Tapan Kandu would have clearly tilted the balance of control of power of the Jhalda Municipal Board in favour of the ruling party.

• That the writ petitioner had indicated the role played by the Inspector-in-Charge, in trying to woo over the deceased to join the rival political party and the threats issued by him in this regard. The writ petitioner also claimed to have audio recording of such threats, demands or requests made by the Inspector-in-Charge.

• That the Superintendent of Police, Purulia District, Mr. S. Selvamurugan stated to have held a press conference a day before the order of the Single Judge wherein he had straightaway given a clean-chit to the Inspector-in-Charge, Sanjib Ghosh which was done when the investigation was in progress and final report was not filed which indicated the involvement of higher police officers.

• That the investigation progressed but with glitches and that more relevant and evidence of substance could have been collected.

The Court observed that the Single Judge had considered factual and legal position while passing the impugned order. And to that held "We are of the opinion that the circumstances which are noted by the learned Single Judge in respect of the lapses on the part of the investigating agency, the nature and circumstances of the case and the legal position which has been taken note of, fully justify the direction which has been issued in the impugned order."

The Court also noted that CBI has already taken over the investigation and substantial progress in the investigation has been done.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the order of the Single Judge.

Click here to read/download the order