Calcutta High Court Transfers Shahjahan Sheikh Case to CBI

Calcutta High Court directs CBI to probe allegations of sexual assault and land grabbing involving TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh for impartial investigation.

The Calcutta High Court has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the investigation into allegations of sexual assault and land grabbing against Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Shahjahan Sheikh, stressing the need for an impartial inquiry. This decision follows a hearing regarding unrest in Sandeshkhali village due to the alleged incidents. Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, presiding over the bench, opted against appointing an Enquiry Committee, instead transferring the probe to the CBI for a fair investigation.

The Court emphasized the necessity of an unbiased investigation given the serious nature of the accusations, which involve crimes against women and the forcible acquisition of land, particularly from citizens belonging to scheduled tribe communities. It also took into account the significant volume of complaints received.

In its ruling, the bench directed the CBI to maintain complainants' confidentiality and establish a dedicated portal/email ID for lodging complaints. Additionally, it instructed the District Magistrate of North 24 Parganas to publicize these measures to ensure awareness among the affected individuals.

The case centers on allegations that Sheikh, along with his associates, forcefully seized land from Sandeshkhali residents and sexually assaulted women in the village. Despite being suspended by the TMC, Sheikh remained elusive until his eventual arrest by the West Bengal Police after 55 days on the run.

During the hearing, Advocate General Kishore Datta argued against dismissing the case as mere political or personal interest litigation, highlighting the seriousness of the allegations. The Court concurred, emphasizing the need for accountability and punishment for those involved in land grabbing offenses.

The Court noted that while the State had taken steps to return seized land to its rightful owners, this did not absolve the offenders of their crimes. It stressed the importance of restoring both land possession and its original character to the rightful owners.

Additionally, the Court underscored the State's responsibility to compensate victims of crimes, especially in cases of large-scale land grabbing where the State machinery may be implicated.

Sheikh had previously faced controversy over allegations that he orchestrated a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers during a raid on his residence as part of a ration scam probe. On March 5, the Calcutta High Court had transferred the probe into this attack to the CBI.