The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea seeking probe by a retired Chief Justice of India into the death of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) founder Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee who passed away in Kashmir in 1953 while in police custody (Smarajit Roychowdhury and Anr v. Union of India & Ors.)
A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj said that the petition cannot be entertained since it has been filed 70 years after the death of Dr. Mukherjee and neither any records relating to the same nor any person who might have any knowledge about the same would be available.
"A petition filed 70 years after the death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, cannot be entertained for holding enquiry or appointment of a commission as neither the record therefor nor any person may be available who may throw any light on that. It may be merely an exercise in futile," the Court said dismissing the petition.
The petition filed by two lawyers, Smarajit Roy Chowdhury and Ajit Kumar Mishra had sought declassification of all documents relating to Mukehrjee's death besides a categorical statement from the Central and West Bengal governments on whether the death was a result of conspiracy by then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
"Citizens of India have no information about how the death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee happened when he was in custody. Hence, all citizens have the right to get information about the mysterious death of Muekhrjee," the plea said.
Mukherjee, who was the Minister of Industry and Supply in the interim Central government formed in 1947 under Nehru had subsequently parted ways and resigned from Cabinet over issues relating to minority rights and establishment of minority commissions.
He had later founded the BJS which won 3 seats in Lok Sabha in the first general elections held in 1952. He had also strongly opposed Nehru government's Kashmir policy due to disagreements with Article 370.
While trying to enter Kashmir which then had a permit system, he was arrested by Katua police.
As per the petitioner, he later died under mysterious circumstances while in captivity.
The plea raised the question of why Mukherjee was not produced before the Court by Sheikh Abdullah's government which was in power in Kashmir then.
The plea, therefore, sought directions to be issued to Central government, Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal government to submit detailed report before the Court regarding Mukherjee's death.
Petitioner Smarajit Roychowdhury appeared in-person.
The Central government was represented by Additional Solicitor General YJ Dastoor and advocates Phiroze Eduji and Amrita Pandey.
Senior Standing Counsel Amitesh Banerjee and advocate Ipsita Banerjee represented the State of West Bengal.