Narada Case: HC Grants Interim Bail to 4 Arrested TMC Leaders
The four are ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra, and ex-Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee.
Calcutta High Court on Friday, 28 May, granted interim bail to four Trinamool Congress leaders – Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sovan Chatterjee – who have been in judicial custody since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested them on Monday, 17 May, in connection to the Narada bribery case, reported LiveLaw.
The high court had earlier ordered that the four leaders be kept under house arrest instead of jail, after a the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee had contradictory opinions on the question of interim bail, and the matter was referred to the larger bench.
At that time, the Bench had set aside the CBI’s request to stay the order for house arrest and had also declined TMC’s calls for their release on interim bail.
The CBI also approached the SC against the HC’s order, but later withdrew its plea.
What Did the HC Say on Friday?
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Mukherjee passed the order, and directed the leaders to not make press/public statements on the pending trial in the Narada case, LiveLaw reported.
Contesting the order, SG Tushar Mehra, appearing for the CBI, said that the accused were “influential” to affect the pending trial and stated that they could gather a mob protesting their participation in a trial.
To this, the HC said that the leaders have not been arrested during the ongoing investigation. “Why arrest now, when they are required to do public functions amid a pandemic?”
Appearing for the accused, advocate Abhishek Singhvi added, "As regards the condition of mob gathering, if this court orders that, it will be presumed that they had gathered mob. It is like asking have you stopped beating your wife. These kind of submissions are made only for the press, to humiliate them,” LiveLaw quoted.
What is the Case?
In 2016, editor and managing director of Narada News portal, Mathew Samuel, broadcasted a sting video right before the West Bengal Assembly elections, in which several TMC leaders were allegedly seen taking bribes.
The CBI had lodged an FIR in April 2017 following a court order, naming 12 TMC leaders and an IPS officer.
Just days after the 2021 Assembly elections that saw Banerjee’s historic return for the third consecutive time as the chief minister, the four leaders were arrested by the CBI on 17 May.
After Banerjee protested against the arrest outside the CBI office leading to ruckus by TMC workers, the party approached a lower court against the arrest, following which they were granted bail.
However, a special bench of the Calcutta HC later cancelled the bail on the same day. On 21 May, the Calcutta HC granted house arrest of the four leaders, instead of being lodged in jail under judicial custody after their arrest.
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