The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday sought an affidavit from a responsible officer of the Centre detailing the difficulties in replacing a part of the Central Armed Police Force deployed in the restive Darjeeling hills.
A bench of acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice T Chakraborty also asked the West Bengal government to file another affidavit regarding deployment of its own forces in Darjeeling hills to quell the continuing unrest over separate statehood demand.
The bench sought their affidavits by July 13 while expressing concern over the sufferings of people in stir-hit Darjeeling hills amid the ongoing tussle over replacement of forces, sought by the state for ‘operational reasons.’
The division bench expressed concern at the continuous closure of most schools in the hills, including several boarding schools where pupils from all over the country and abroad study.
An indefinite bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is spearheading the violent agitation demanding a separate state for the hills people, entered the 27th day on Tuesday.
The matter will come up for hearing again on July 14.
The state has asked for replacement of three companies of SSB and three women companies of CRPF with six companies of male CRPF personnel, citing operational reasons.
At present a total of 11 companies of CAPF are deployed in the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Kaushik Chanda told the court that a high-level meeting was held yesterday in Delhi under the chairpersonship of the special secretary, (internal security) of the Union ministry of home affairs with the additional director general (law and order) of the West Bengal Police too attending it to discuss the issue.
The high court had on Friday asked the Centre and the state to sit together and sort out the issue of replacement.
Chanda submitted today that the Centre has principally not agreed to the request for replacement as “that will bring down the morale of the forces.”
At this, the acting chief justice asked, “Will you allow the situation to continue like this?”
Stating that there were adequate central forces, the ASG claimed there was lack of coordination between the state officials and the CAPF.
Referring to the framing of charges in the Madan Tamang killing trial, Justice Mhatre asked as to why the CBI has not done anything to ensure the presence of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung and other accused in Kolkata.
The acting chief justice asked the CBI to file an affidavit detailing the steps it has taken to ensure the presence of these accused in a Kolkata court as per the direction of another division bench.
Gurung, his wife Asha and several other leaders of GJM are accused in the case of killing of All India Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang at Chowkbazar in the heart of Darjeeling town on May 21, 2010.
They were directed to stay in Kolkata from the date of framing of charge in the case till completion of the trial.
While granting bail to these accused on December 19, 2016, a division bench of Justice Asim Kumar Roy had directed them to stay in Kolkata police area during the said period.
Hearing for framing of charges began in January before the court of chief judicial magistrate, Kolkata.