An FIR on financial irregularities against Badal Chowdhury, incumbent Deputy Leader of Opposition and former Minister of PWD, Government of Tripura and two other top officials i.e. Sunil Bhowmik, the then Chief Engineer, PWD(R&B) and Yash Paul Singh, the then Chief Secretary was lodged to the West Agartala Police station, on 13th October, 2019. This desperate drive of the Government cannot be viewed as an isolated attempt of the BJP-led Government from its continuous reign of unprecedented terror and intimidation on the leaders, workers and sympathisers of the opposition parties, especially of the CPI(M), the main opposition parties of the state.
The present terrible and suppressive regime under BJP-IPFT remind us a colonial rule, where the people are devoid of any democratic right, fundamental rights and even civil liberties. Since assumption in power by BJP with hoax promises in March 2018, not a day passed when the workers and leaders of the left parties, particularly of the CPI(M), the main opposition party were not meted with heinous attacks, physical, financial and mental, by the BJP sponsored miscreants. In one hand, police permission for organising any open programme by the opposition parties or any mass organisation is outright denied by the police on the plea of shortage of security forces, and in case the organisers dare to stick to the programme without police permission, huge contingent of security forces with suppressive equipments like teargas and water cannon, are deployed to keep the people’s gathering confined in a particular spot. This happened recently in the case of Schedule Caste Coordination Committee mobilisation on 22nd October and lastly Peasants-Agricultural workers rally on 13th November, 2019. Apart from more than 164 CPI(M) offices were demolished by the Government on the plea, those were raised in Khas land, except State Committee office, all the CPI(M) offices of the state including several Sub-Division level offices situated in Jote land were also attacked, vandalised, looted, and some completely gutted.
Gist of the complaint
The case in reference is regarding PWD tender bid in 2008. The FIR alleged that the accused persons had allowed excess of Rs.164 crores beyond the permissible limit violating procedural norms while finalising the bid with the PSUs and reputed construction companies of the country for construction of 9 bridges, 5 buildings and 4 roads. It is not the place to discuss merits and demerits of the case matter on legal point of view which will be decided by the court. But chronology of events shall strongly reflect the vindictive motive of the Government to divert people’s attention from the commendable achievements of the then Left Front Government in infrastructure development of the state during their regime.
Crazy acts of police to arrest Badal Chowdhury
At the moment, when hearing for anticipatory bail application by Badal Chowdhury was in progress in District Session Judge bench on 14th October, 2019, the following day of filing FIR, a big contingent of police and TSR headed by IO of the case encircled the CPI(M) state committee office at Melarmath, Agartala and wanted to search the office to find out Badal Cowdhury without any search warrant. They were vehemently opposed searching by the party workers and leaders and asked to collect search warrant from a competent authority before conduct of search. Showing utter disregards to the plea of the party leaders, the police tried to forcibly enter into the office for searching. But by this time, the court passed an order that Badal Chowdhury cannot be arrested till final order on the bail application to be issued on 16th October next. Only then, the police unfolded their grip over the state committee office but posted several civil police to keep round the clock watch on the office.
On 16th the Sessions Judge in his order at 11.45 p.m. rejected the anticipatory bail prayer of Sri Chowdhury. No sooner the police with huge number of security forces again appeared before the CPI(M) state committee office and started showing their fangs to search the office. This time also, they had no search warrant. Ignoring all protests by the comrades staying inside the office, the police conducted search inside the office once at about 12.30 a.m. and subsequently at 2.00 a.m. at night. In both the searches the police, however, drew black in their net. A section of TSR forces was posted in front of state committee office from 16th Night till Badal Chowdhury was declared arrested in ICU of ILS Hospital in unconscious condition on 21st October, 2019.
Enraged police then started hunting for Badal Chowdhury in almost all houses of the prominent party leaders, and the relatives of Sri Chowdhury spread over the state. Badal Chowdhury was waiting for the order of the High Court which fixed hearing of his appeal petition for anticipatory bail on 24th October. On 18th October, the police cordoned up a large area near Bijoy Kumar Chowmohani of Agartala town and hounded more than 100 houses in search of Badal Chowdhury. During search, the police caused extreme displeasure of the house-holders and people of the area when the police disregarding privacy of the inmates, opened up box-cot, almirahs, toilets and even the washing machines to find out Sri Chowdhury. In none of the house searches, the police had any search warrant.
Inhumanity in Hospital.
On 21st October evening, wife and daughter of Badal Chowdhury carried Badal Chowdhury in ILS Hospital Agartala in unconscious condition. The physicians immediately admitted him in ICU. The police no sooner arrested him from ICU. Next day, though apparently the patient did not regain satisfactorily to be shifted, but for the pressure from government, he was shifted to cabin. His wife had to fight with police for being allowed to stay with the patient as an attendant inside the hospital cabin. Inside the cabin the spouse had no privacy even for change of dresses because the police deputed two lady constables to guard the arrested person inside the cabin in addition to large number of security forces were on round the clock duty in front of the cabin as well in the main entrance of the hospital.
The anticipatory bail petition of Badal Chowdhury turned infructuous as he had already been arrested. A fresh bail petition was submitted to the Tripura High Court by Smti Namita Gope, wife of Sri Chowdhury. 30th October was fixed for hearing of this petition in the High Court. On the same day at noon, the ILS hospital authority seemingly under duress, released Badal Chowdhury from the Hospital. Copy of the release certificate was given to the police keeping the family members in dark. The police hastily dragged out Sri Chowdhury through a passage in the back side of the Hospital which is generally used for bringing out dead body. He was not even given scope to change his dress. This inhumanity with the patient and hasty action of the police was necessary to argue in the high court that accused Badal Chowdhury was quite well and could be ordered for police remand.
Barbarism in Police station
While argument on the bail petition of Badal Chowdhury was going on in the High Court on 30th October 2019, the police had taken a hasty and inhuman drive for shifting Badal Chowdhury from ILS Hospital to Police Station. Apparently shattered Badal Chowdhury alleged in the police station that he was physically assaulted by the police on way to police station. In social media post it was clearly seen that 3 police officers namely Subrata Chakrborty, Dhruba Nath and Ajoy Das IO of the case were lifting Sri Chowdhury from a chair and pushing him inside the custody. The purpose of this barbarism was clear, when the state BJP face book immediately posted an image of the same custody where Badal Chowdhury was sitting in a bench with another accused. Though custodial code categorically prohibited circulation of any photograph/image of the custody, this had happened in case of Badal Chowdhury who is presently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tripura Legislaive Assembly, former minister for 20 years and Member of Legislative Assembly for 8 terms and more importantly, who is seriously ill, had undergone open heart urgency, having pace maker in his chest and needs regular medical advice from Delhi doctors.
Naturally, Badal Chowdhury could not bear with this physical and mental torture. Within few minutes Badal Chowdhury got ill inside the custody of West Agartala Police station. The police called on some physicians from G.B. Panth Hospital who advised the police to immediately shift him to hospital. Within an hour he was again carried to the GB. Panth hospital where he was admitted in ICU. However, his bail petition in Tripura High Court was rejected.
On 5th November, Shreya Chowdhury, daughter of Badal Chowdhury lodged a complaint to the Police Accountability Commission against such barbarism on her father in the hospital as well as in the police station. The Commission accepted the complaint and issued show-cause notice to the alleged police officers.
On 8th November, the police presented Badal Chowdhury before the Special Judge of West Tripura from GB Hospital cabin. Before taking to the court, the police kept him waiting about two hours in a wheel chair in Hospital corridor. Badal Chowdhury submitted to the court “ My life is in danger. A conspiracy is afoot from high level of the administration to kill me. I am falsely framed up in this case. Till now I am in dark what the allegation against me is. Some doctors in ILS and G.B. Panth Hospitals and some police officers misbehaved with me rendering mental torture that seriously affected my treatment.” Lastly, he urged the court for safety of life.
While rejecting police custody of the accused, the Special Court judge allowed him judicial custody till 11th November next with all logistic support including medical facilities according to his present status. On 11th November, the same court sanctioned 4 days police custody setting several conditions like hygienic atmosphere and medical care. Next day on 12th November the police transferred him in NCC (New Capital Complex) police station but according to Badal Chowdhury, the room did not comply with the specification laid down by the court. Hence, the Special court judge in its order dated 16th November, again sent him to the judicial custody and allowed the police to interrogate him inside the jail.
On 17th November, the IO of the case Ajoy Das in the name of interrogation brought Badal Chowdhury in a dirty room which was quite damp and having no ventilating system. While interrogation Badal Chowdhury again fell ill and presently he is in ICU of G.B. Panth Hospital. Till now, Badal Chowdhury is under treatment in ICU in G.B. Hospital.
The above eventualities amply establishes that the Government is more keen to harass Badal Chowdhury in whatsoever manner than waiting for verdict of the case, with a view to tarnish the high image of Badal Chowdhury who is known to be one of the key architects of infrastructural develop in Tripura during Left Front regime. Badal Chowdhury repeatedly assured the party workers and supporters who swarmed in the court to take glimpses of him, that the conspirators would certainly defeated in the court of law.
CPI(M) Tripura state committee in a statement termed this FIR as a conspiracy to defame the achievements of earlier Left Front Government in one hand, and divert the people’s attention from one after another anti-people steps of the BJP-led Government by deception of the people with false promises they made during election on the other.
Innumerable protest march and rallies were held throughout the state condemning this political vendetta of the Government. They vowed to combat this conspiracy politically and legally.