The Tripura High Court on Thursday, May 6th, 2021 provided a green signal to the Government to conduct a further inquiry in relation to a viral video of an incident that took place in Agartala wherein a marriage function was stopped midway by the DM and his team.
Taking note of the fact that State administration has agreed to transfer the District Magistrate out of Agartala, a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice SG Chattopadhyay, lifted the rigors against the conduct of further inquiry instituted by the State Government.
The Court was dealing with 3 pleas, first one filed by an advocate seeking action against the District Magistrate concerned, the second one filed by the priest who was to perform the marriage ceremony and the third one filed by the father of the bride whose marriage was to take place on that night.
During the course of the last hearing, the Bench had issued a bunch of interim directions while issuing notice including shifting of the DM out of Agartala after having a prima facie view that it would be necessary to do so "in order to conduct an impartial fact-finding inquiry regarding the incident and the role played by the D.M."
After the video of the incident went viral on social media, the State Government had instituted a two-member Committee to inquire into the incident and for submitting a report in the incident.
In another development in the case, the DM concerned was suspended by the Government vide order dated May 2nd, 2021 till further orders.
The Court on May 5th observed that one of the serious issues in the proceedings is the allegation of the petitioners that on the night of April 26th, 2021 under the instructions of the District Magistrate large number of family members and guests attending the marriage function were detained at the police station for a considerable period of time. This included women and children.
However, in response to this allegation, the respondents filed an affidavit stating that no arrest or even detention was ever made. It was argued that the members present at the hall were brought to the police station since after the curfew hours they did not have a passage home and therefore, in order to provide safe passage, they were brought to the West Agartala Police Station and the women and children were taken to the Women Police Station.
Quoting " We are unable to appreciate why if the administration was desirous of providing a safe passage to the citizens, the same could not have been done from the marriage hall or the outside precincts thereof and what was the need for bringing the entire marriage party including women and children to the police station. We will inquire into this allegation minutely”, as well as looking to the sensitive nature of the incident serious allegations and counter-allegations made by both sides, the court opined that the inquiry committee should be expanded so as to include a retired District Judge.
The court finally ordered the two-member inquiry committee constituted by the State Government under order dated 28th April 2021 passed by the Secretary, Government of Tripura shall include former District Judge Mr. Subhash Sikdar.
It will be the responsibility of the administration to provide him all necessary facilities to enable him to attend to the meetings of the inquiry committee.
The terms of the committee as per the said order dated 28.04.2021 is - "The committee will conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident and suggest measures to be taken in the matter."
While inquiring into the entire incident the committee shall also inquire into this allegation of the petitioners and make a specific report in this respect; The report of the inquiry shall not be published without first placing it before the Court and without the leave of the Court; We would expect the members of the public not to burden the administration by filing fresh complaints unless some new allegation or angle which is not already brought on record comes to light.
Before closing, the Court put into record that at a difficult time when the State is grappling with the spread of coronavirus, the persons engaged in enforcing rules and regulations should not be demoralized.