New Delhi/Kolkata : West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s conduct in storming into the CBI office in Kolkata can set a bad precedent and “unless checked”, this could be “replicated” in other states as well, the CBI told the Calcutta High Court on Thursday.
Appearing for CBI in the high profile legal battle on Narada bribery investigation, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said henceforth the issue of concern is not merely about “bail” for the Trinamool leaders. The more important issue is that such strategies – of storming into CBI offices – “can be adopted by politicians, gangsters and members of particular communities”.
During the hearing Mehta submitted that the proceedings held before the special CBI court be nullified. However, he said, “My submissions should not be seen as casting aspersions on the special court judge who granted bail. The issue is that proceedings should not be perceived as not inspiring public confidence”.
The observations came during the hearing of the Narada bribery scam in the court after the Supreme Court on May 24 said the CBI was at liberty to initiate actions against Mamata Banerjee and her Law Minister Moloy Ghatak.
“…..Proceed against them if you wish to,” the Supreme Court said, perhaps giving a virtual green signal to the CBI to initiate action or legal proceedings if it wished.
CBI sources have earlier said the entire hearing in the trial court on May 17 that gave bail to the arrested leaders were “vitiated”. Mamata’s trusted aides Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee, who had quit Trinamool on eve of elections, were arrested in Kolkata on May 17.
Two of them arrested by the CBI were Ministers and within minutes Mamata Banerjee herself stormed into the CBI office. While her Law Minister Ghatak made himself available at the trial court, thousands of TMC workers and supporters staged noisy protests in front of the CBI office in Kolkata and also in front of the Raj Bhawan.
Further hearing in the case is expected on Friday, May 28.
Technically speaking, the CBI is yet to challenge the bail order per se. On May 17 late evening, the Calcutta High Court had given a stay to the trial court order for bail and accordingly the arrested leaders were sent for judicial custody in the city’s premier Presidency Jail and two of them were taken to hospitals. However, in a subsequent hearing the court in a split order said the arrested leaders including two ministers should be kept under house arrest and allowed to discharge their administrative responsibilities through virtual meetings.
Trinamool Congress observers say Mamata Banerjee was particularly irked by the CBI’s move to arrest Firhad Hakim – whom she treats not merely as a party colleague but more like her brother. Farid Hakim was also made Kolkata’s first Muslim mayor since independence. If that is not enough to suggest Mamata’s ‘blessing’ for Hakim, he was also made the chairman of Tarakeswar Temple Trust, certainly remaining indifferent to Hindu sentiments.
The CBI is probing the Narada tape-bribery scam following a Calcutta High Court order issued in 2017.
Now, a five-judge bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee is hearing the case.