Darjeeling: A two-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Vineet Saran has provided interim relief to six senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders, including Bimal Gurung, in the 2017 blasts and arms haul case by ordering the the West Bengal police that “no coercive action be taken till the next hearing”.
The relief comes after a series of hearings based on a writ petition filed by GJM general secretary Roshan Giri in 2017.
The Supreme Court has ordered, “Let an affidavit be filed on behalf of the State Government as to whether the provisions of Section 6(1) of the NIA Act, the cases which are covered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2008, they have forwarded a report to the Central Government, as mandated by Section 6(2) or not. In the meantime, let the status quo be maintained with respect to the offences which are covered by the NIA Act, 2008. No coercive action be taken till the next date of hearing.”
The case has been listed for hearing in the second week of January.
To those unfamiliar with the NIA Act of 2008, if any “scheduled offences” listed under the Act have been committed, Section 6(1) of the Act requires the local police to inform the state government, and Section 6(2) for the state government to inform the Central government immediately.
Cases registered under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, widely known as UAPA, is included as “scheduled offences” under the NIA Act of 2008.
In Darjeeling, the West Bengal police have slapped 14 different cases against Gurung and other top GJM leaders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, citing various blasts and arms recovery from across the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) region during the 2017 Gorkhaland statehood agitation period.
Speculations are therefore rife that the Supreme Court may actually order these 14 cases registered under the dreaded UAPA to be investigated by the NIA.
A lawyer present at the court said, “Even the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta spoke on behalf of the Central government, and he argued that, these cases are fit for investigations by the National Investigation Agency.”
In political circles of Darjeeling, this order is being seen by many as providing credence to the beleaguered GJM leader Gurung and his followers, who have remained underground since the Gorkhaland agitation broke out in June of 2017.
A series of blasts had rocked the GTA region in the month of August, 2017, following which the West Bengal police had slapped charges under UAPA against Gurung and other top GJM leaders. Reacting to which, Gurung had asked for investigations by NIA under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
In a letter to the Unioin home minister Rajnath Singh, Gurung had questioned how was it possible that the police didn’t see someone planting a bomb when the blast site is situated right next to the Darjeeling Sadar police station.
“It is either a case of gross incompetence, or a case of fake blast planted by state agents to frame the GJM leadership. We suspect that the blast is a handiwork of the Bengal government to disrupt the Gorkhaland movement,” the letter had said.
The letter had further requested, “We demand that a probe be initiated, at the earliest, by a high-level inquiry committee, comprising of National Invstigation Agency (NIA) officials under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India, so that an unbiased investigations can be carried out into this heinous attempt to bring disrepute to the Gorkhaland movement and the leaders associated with it, and willful attempts at causing unrest in peaceful Darjeeling.”
The GJM faction loyal to Bimal Gurung have always professed their innocence in the acts of bomb blasts and arms haul, and have speculated on these being a frame-up of their leadership by the West Bengal government, this SC order is being seen as a vindication of their stand.