The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been awaiting a nod for over one and a half years now from Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to prosecute three sitting Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs accused in the Narada sting operation case.
The central investigation agency has also been waiting for about eleven months now for a go-ahead from the Union Home ministry to file a charge-sheet against suspended IPS officer S M H Mirza in the Narada sting operation case that rocked the state just ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections.
In a series of sting operations carried out by Mathew Samuel of the Narada News purportedly in 2014, senior TMC leaders and a high-ranked police officer were allegedly seen accepting money from representatives of a fictitious company to provide unofficial favours.
The video clippings of the sting operations were released to the public by the naradanews.com in 2016.
The CBI had filed the First Information Report (FIR) in the case in April 2017 against 12 TMC leaders and police officer Mirza, who had claimed to have taken the money on behalf of the then TMC Rajya Sabha MP and now BJP leader Mukul Roy.
CBI sources said at least three letters had been dispatched to the Lok Sabha secretariat seeking the Speaker’s sanction for the prosecution of the TMC MPs Saugata Roy, Prasun Banerjee, and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.
Initially, when the agency sought the Speaker’s permission in April last year, Suvendu Adhikari’s name was also in the list. Adhikari is now a minister in the state government and not a member of the present Lok Sabha.
The CBI said the Lok Sabha secretariat forwarded the agency’s sanction request to the law ministry for its opinion.
Without the sanction, the CBI is not able to file a charge-sheet in the case because as per Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, prosecution sanction is mandatory for filing a charge sheet against a public servant before the courts can take cognizance of the charges.
The CBI had told the Calcutta High Court in March last year that it was close to “stitching up” the case and would submit the charge sheet as soon as it get sanctions from authorities concerned to prosecute people’s representatives like MPs and MLAs.
In the Saradha chit fund case, another high-profile case involving politicians, the CBI has reportedly completed the investigation, but is not yet able to file the final charge sheet due to the procedural tangle.
The CBI sources hinted that at least six high-profile politicians and a senior police officer would be named in the charge-sheet, the final draft of which is now being scrutinized by the legal department of the investigation bureau.
The charge sheet in the case might be filed early next year, the CBI sources said.
The delay in taking the cases forward is only giving credence to speculations that the BJP-led Centre wants to use these cases to derive political mileage ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.
The BJP has already got into its fold scam-tainted TMC leaders Mukul Roy and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee. The party is reportedly also in touch with a few other TMC leaders whose names figured in the sting operation.
The state BJP leaders have been claiming often that there would be a massive exodus of leaders from the TMC ahead of the elections.
There are already reports of a growing rift between the ruling TMC and one of the accused in the Narada scam, West Bengal transport, irrigation and water resource minister Suvendu Adhikari.
Some of the other TMC leaders named in the FIR including Madan Mitra, Aparupa Poddar, and Iqbal Ahmed too are not very active in the party these days.
Senior ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad (Bobby) Hakim’s name too figured in the CBI’s FIR.
Some of the accused admitted taking the money as a donation for the party’s election fund and the same was also disclosed in the account details filed before the Election Commission.