The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Krishna Murari has granted ad-interim stay against a Calcutta High Court order which reopened old criminal cases against SK Supian, the Election Agent of West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming Assembly polls.
The FIRs registered against SK Supian were withdrawn by the Bengal Government in 2020. The top court court said, “However, since the order which affects the petitioner, herein, has been passed without hearing the petitioner, we deem it appropriate to pass an order staying the operation of the order dated 05-03-2021, only insofar as it pertains to the petitioner viz. SK Supian, for a period of two weeks till date or until further orders of the Division Bench of the High Court, whichever, is earlier.”
According to Bar & Bench, Supian had been booked for unlawful assembly and violence in relation to the 2007 Nandigram violence. These cases were based on charge sheets filed in the context of mass protests against improper land acquisition measures undertaken by the Government of West Bengal during the years 2007-2009 to create a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Nandigram.
In 2020, the public prosecutor had filed applications in these cases for withdrawal of prosecution and based on the same, Supian was discharged by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in February 2020 under Section 321 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in certain criminal cases, reported LiveLaw.
However, on the PIL filed by the BJP member, the High court via its order dated March 5 had said, “… having considered the stereotype orders which are impugned in these writ petitions and looking into the contents of those orders, we are, prima facie, satisfied that exercise of judicial power in terms of Section 321 Cr. P.C. to grant consent to a prosecutor to withdraw has, prima facie, not been appropriately exercised. We make this cautious observation because the formation of opinion of a prosecutor to withdraw a particular case from prosecution is, itself, an activity which is regulated by the statute and the judicial precedents governing the field.”
According to Bar & Bench, Supian’s petition before the apex court read, “There has been no trial or conviction in these cases due to lack of evidence and due to the wrongful basis for instituting these cases. That in February 2020, these cases were finally withdrawn upon application by the Additional Public Prosecutor and with the consent of the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Midnapore, West Bengal by order dated February 10, 2020.”
He reportedly contended that the High Court erred in passing the order, which had the effect of reversing an order of discharge or acquittal of the petitioner without issuing notice to him and hearing him. Supian stated that the re-institution of cases against him was impairing his ability to discharge his functions as an election agent under the Representation of People Act, 1951, reported B & B.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh (appearing for SK Supian) argued that, “This is (related to) Nandigram violence. Trial court had accepted the Section 321 CrPC applications. Trial court stated that it has pursued an order withdrawing prosecution against people and accepted the same. Then BJP leader files a PIL in High Court and charges are revived ex-parte. I am election agent of the Chief Minister and I am completely disabled. This is unheard of and bizarre.”
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for West Bengal submitted that the Supreme Court itself has given powers to the state government to withdraw cases in political agitations and an elected government can decide to withdraw such cases to create goodwill, as per LiveLaw. Referring to the High Court’s order, Singhvi expressed that he had not come across a single case in judicial history where such directions have been given in a PIL.
Supian in his plea also alleged that his personal liberty had been prejudiced, as he was not impleaded before passing of the impugned order and was granted no opportunity to be heard by the High Court.
Finally, the Supreme Court said that it expected the High Court to take up the writ petitions and decide the same within a week or two. “It will be open to the respective parties to raise all contentions before the High Court”, the order read.
The Supreme Court order may be read here: