‘Mamata Obstructing Narada Probe’: CBI; TMC Leaders Refute Claim

HC was given the impression that Calcutta was in flames while a virtual hearing was, in reality, underway: Singhvi.

4 min read
CBI arrested Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra, and Sovan Chatterjee in the Narada case on Monday.  

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday, 19 May, during a hearing in the Calcutta High Court sought the Narada scam case to be transferred outside the state, while alleging that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her leaders are ‘obstructing CBI officials from carrying out their duties’.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, on their part, have however refuted the CBI allegations.

The CBI also sought police custody of the four TMC leaders who were arrested on Monday, 17 May, in the case — Bengal Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee.

After the four leaders were arrested on Monday, violence erupted outside the CBI office in Kolkata, as Chief Minister Banerjee sat on a Dharna, demanding to be arrested along with them. The TMC then approached the local court that granted bail to the four leaders.

However, in a late-night development, the Calcutta High Court stayed the bail granted to them.

The CBI in their plea also made Banerjee, the state’s Law Minister Moloy Ghatak, and party leader Kalyan Banerjee party in the matter.

The bench of acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Ajit Banerjee will continue hearing the case on Thursday, 19 May.

CBI’s Allegations

Representing the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reportedly said:

“There are circumstances which are extraordinary, unusual, which, in my memory, have not happened in the court. The shocking facts have been placed on record.”

When the Court claimed that they had stayed the bail order only on the consideration that “maybe the mob pressure pressurised the court to grant bail (sic)”, the SG said:

“So far as bail is concerned, bail was granted on the first day. We were not given an opportunity to respond. We could not even place the case-diary before the court because we were physically restrained.”

The CBI also, among other things, claimed:

  • The question of bail is linked to their (the accused’s) ability to influence the investigation or trial.
  • There was an orchestrated attempt to frustrate the course of justice.

The Defence

“Your lordships were given an impression that entire Calcutta was in flames, whereas they were arguing virtually before the Special Court.” 
Senior Advocate AM Singhvi

Senior Advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for TMC leaders in his response said that he agree with the SG “that this is an extraordinary case”. He, however, also added:

“Every argument my learned friend(SG) is making to keep them in jail for one more day or two more days. The delicious irony made by the so-called premier agency is that they argued the case here without serving any notice on us.”   

Further, Singhvi pointed out that no court can stay interim-bail without giving notice to the accused. He also claimed;

  • Principles of natural justice were violated.
  • Aged persons are arrested in a 2014 sting.
  • The stay order was obtained by complete false representation and suppression of fact

Alleging that the arrests were illegal, as the CBI did not obtain sanctions from the speaker and only approached the Governor before effecting the arrest, Singhvi stated that “people have a right to protest against such unlawful arrests of the central agency”.

“That is the meaning of democracy,” said Singhvi.

On being question by the court about the CM’s presence at the site, Singhvi said that Mamata Banerjee went to the CBI in the capacity of an MLA.

“What power she has over the CBI or Special CBI Court?” Singhvi asked.

Singhvi also claimed:

  • Even though co-ministers and co-MLAs protested, there was no hindrance to the CBI.
  • The protestations are being used as an excuse by CBI now.
  • Neither has the the Special Court expressed any difficulty, nor has the Special Judge made the remotest suggestion of being over-awed.
  • There is no mention of any obstruction to hearing (by the Special Court). The order states that the matter was heard virtually on consent of both sides.

More Details

The TMC has alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party had resorted to the misuse of Central agencies, since it lost the recent Assembly elections held in the state, which TMC won with a sweeping victory.

The TMC also questioned the rationale behind no action being taken against former TMC minister Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy, both of whom were accused in the case but had recently joined the BJP.

Meanwhile, the CBI, in a charge sheet has reportedly mentioned that it did not get the necessary permission to initiate probe against other accused like Suvendu Adhikari, Mukul Roy, Kakali Ghosh Dastidar and Sougata Roy.

What is The Case About?

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 money.

The purported video footage of the sting operation surfaced before the 2016 Assembly polls.

The CBI lodged an FIR in April 2017 following a court order, naming 12 top TMC leaders, including MPs and West Bengal ministers, and an IPS officer.

(With inputs from LiveLaw and The Indian Express.)

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