West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Law Minister Moloy Ghatak and party leader, Kalyan Banerjee have been made parties by the CBI in a petition before the Calcutta High Court seeking transfer of the Narada sting tape case from the state.
The agency has asked that the four accused in the case, who were arrested earlier this week and are now in jail, be placed in police custody. In its plea before the division bench presided by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, the CBI said that it did not ask for their custody on Monday (May 17) because of the “terror created by and at the behest of the arrested accused persons” by the presence of the CM Mamata Banerjee and others.
The four accused who were arrested in the 2016 Narada bribery case were Bengal Cabinet Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamool MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor, Sovan Chatterjee.
While being taken to the CBI office, Firhad Hakim said, “I have full faith in the judiciary. The BJP can employ anybody to harass me.” Firhad Hakim, who is also the chairman of the board of administrators of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), however started sobbing while saying that he could not finish his job of helping the people of Kolkata in the time of the pandemic, India Today reported.
Shortly after the arrests, Trinamool workers had gathered outside the CBI’s Kolkata office, even as the CM rushed to the spot and held a dharna. Banerjee said that since the ministers were arrested “without due procedure”, the CBI will have to arrest her too.
In its petition before the High Court, the CBI said, the CM had remained present outside the agency’s office “along with a well-engineered crowd of thousands of miscreants and after ensuring media presence”. According to the agency, this was all part of the larger and well-thought out design to “terrorise the investigating agency and prevent it from discharging its statutory functions freely and fearlessly”.
Representing the CBI, Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta had on Monday evening (May 17) told the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee that an extraordinary situation had evolved, with the CM of the state sitting on a dharna outside the investigating agency office.
The probe agency said that a number of followers of the arrested political leaders gheraoed the CBI office in Nizam Palace area, and did not allow its officers to move out to enable them to produce the accused in court.
In these circumstances, the CBI prudently decided not to ask for the custody of the accused since it would have led to a serious law and order problem, said the petition. The CBI also claimed that the law minister of West Bengal was present in court, where the accused were to be presented, along with a mob. Besides Banerjee and Ghatak, the probe agency has also made TMC MP and lawyer Kalyan Banerjee a party in its petition.
The four arrested leaders had first got bail after a seven-hour drama on Monday but it was put on hold by the High Court the same evening following an appeal by the agency. The issue also reached the Supreme Court with a caveat filed by the CBI after the ministers asked the High Court for a revocation of its order. They were produced before the special CBI court through the virtual mode on Monday, said NDTV.
The TMC has raised the issue over the timing of arrests, which happens to be days after Mamata Banerjee’s victory in the WB Assembly elections. The Narada case involves a sting operation conducted in 2014 by a journalist from Narada news portal, who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He had given cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribe and taped the entire operation. The tapes were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.