Two of Mamata Banerjee’s ministers and two other TMC leaders arrested Monday morning in the Narada case had their bails put on hold late in the evening after the CBI challenged their bail in the Calcutta High Court.
Among those arrested today, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee are ministers in the present state government.
The other two, Madan Mitra and Shovan Chattopadhyay, were ministers when the Narada case was filed. While Madan Mitra is presently a TMC MLA, Shovan is a former TMC MLA who later joined the BJP and then resigned from it too. The central agency has taken permission to proceed against the four from the governor of the state as all the four were ministers at the point of time of their alleged crime (taking brie for granting favour).
The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who dared the CBI to arrest her too, sat in dharna in the CBI office at Nizam Palace today for nearly six hours. During her presence in the complex, thousands of TMC supporters gathered outside.
At one point of time, they started hurling stones and bricks at the central forces guarding the CBI office. But the state police intervened on time and pushed back the protesters. Some others attacked the Raj Bhawan, and hurled stones at the spacious residence of the governor of the state. Jagdeep Dhankhar, the governor, tweeted to remind the state administration that they had to maintain law and order.
Finally, at about five in the evening the CM left the complex. The crowd gathered outside however stayed back till evening. In fact, the Chief Minister was present in the CBI office during the time when the case against the four was heard, virtually, by a special CBI judge of Bank shall court.
CBI wanted to send the four to judicial custody for 14 days so that these ‘influential people’ could not tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses. The lawyers of the accused however claimed that custody is unwarranted as the investigation has been completed and charge-sheet was given.
Meanwhile, the local CBI has filed reports to their headquarters about the CM’s dharna in their office and the protesters outside. According to sources, they have described all these as an attempt to intimidate the agency officials. Interestingly, Abhishek Banerjee, a TMC MP and the nephew of the CM, issued an appeal to have faith in the judiciary. He tweeted, “I urge everyone to abide by the law & refrain from any activity that violates lockdown norms for the sake of the larger interest of Bengal and its people. We have utmost faith in the judiciary & the battle will be fought legally.” However, the TMC activists did not pay any heed to his appeal.
All the four leaders arrested today were taken from their homes in the early morning. A large number of people gathered outside Hakim and Madan Mitra’s houses and staged a protest as the leaders were taken by the CBI officers and CRPF jawans. All the four were brought to Nizam Palace to sign the arrest memo. They were then kept in four different rooms. Later they were presented before the CBI court virtually. The CBI has issued charge sheets against these four and a suspended IPS officer H M S Mirza who has been arrested earlier and is on bail now.
The Narada case is about a sting operation performed in 2014 by Mathew Samuel. It targeted quite a few important TMC leaders and high ranking police officers. The sting showed many of them accepting bribes in exchange for providing illegal favours.
The TMC has questioned why only four of the 13 accused are being charge-sheeted. Among those who have not been proceeded against are Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, both BJP leaders. Samuel too has raised a question about CBI not proceeding against Suvendu Adhikari. Apart from Mukul Roy, all other accused were caught on tape while accepting money.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored).