Narada case: Calcutta HC stays bail for Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra & Sovan Chatterjee
Kolkata/IBNS: In a dramatic turn of events, the Calcutta High Court on Monday night stayed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court's interim bail granted to West Bengal Ministers Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former party leader Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the Narada scam case. All four were taken to Presidency jail after midnight.
Earlier in the evening, a special CBI court in Kolkata granted interim bail to Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee after they were arrested by the probe agency on Monday in connection with the Narada scam.
The bail came after nearly seven hours of drama and confrontation as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spent much of the day at the CBI office in Kolkata.
Following the bail, the CBI had moved to the High Court which accepted the probe agency's plea.
The High Court said it has been called upon to deal with a situation where the Chief Minister of the State can sit with her supporters on a dharna outside the office of the CBI, which had investigated the case and was to present a charge-sheet in court against the accused who are senior leaders of the party in power in the State, some of them being Ministers.
"Not only this, the Law Minister of the State was present in Court where the accused were to be presented along with a mob of 2000 to 3000 supporters," the court order said.
With the Calcutta High Court staying the lower court's order, the four heavyweight politicians will be kept at judicial custody of the Presidency Jail till Wednesday.
As per media reports, the four politicians will be kept at a special ward in the jail following their health check-up at the CBI office. The entire area has been cordoned off with heavy security.
The next hearing of the case in the High Court will take place on Wednesday.
Firhad Hakim, who is chairman of Board of Administrators of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), broke down after the High Court decision. "They [CBI] did not let me save the people of Kolkata amid the pandemic," he said while being taken to jail.
The four politicians were arrested under sections 120b of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 7 and 13(1)(a) 13(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Bengal Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee were arrested early this morning in the Narada bribery case. Soon Trinamool MLA Madan Mitra and former TMC leader Sovan Chatterjee, who joined the BJP but quit that party too, were also arrested in the same case.
However, TMC MP Saugata Roy and TMC-turned BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, who are also accused in the case, were not arrested. The episode triggered a political firestorm in the state.
After submitting the chagesheet at the Bankshall Court, the CBI had initially sought 14 days of judicial remand for the arrested leaders.
In a show of support, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee reached the CBI office at Nizam Palace at around 10:50 am. Not sparing a word, she went inside and reportedly asked the CBI officials about why her lawmakers were arrested unlawfully.
"The way they have been arrested without due procedure, CBI will have to arrest me also," the Bengal Chief Minister reportedly said as she camped at the CBI Office in Nizam Palace for more than six hours.
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar had sanctioned the prosecution of the four politicians, who have been accused of the Narada sting operation scam five years ago in 2016.
News portal Narada News released several sting operation footage, where TMC's leaders, ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen allegedly taking bribes.
The ruling party as well as West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee called the arrests "unlawful".
Biman Banerjee said his permission was required for the CBI to arrest any lawmaker while the same was done with the green signal from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
The TMC has also accused the Centre's ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has recently lost the assembly elections heavily, of playing "vendetta politics".
Questions are raised on why other accused in the case, Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari and Shanku Deb Panda, who have switched from the TMC to BJP, are spared from the arrests. "This is an unlawful arrest. As the BJP lost the elections, the Governor is a blood sucker of the TMC leaders. The Governor has become vindictive," said TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee.
Despite welcoming the arrests of the TMC leaders, the same question has been raised by Narada News editor Mathew Samuel, who led the sting operation where a line of politicians were allegedly seen accepting bribes.
Samuel said, "I came to know that some of the senior TMC ministers, Subrata Mukherjee and Bobby (Firhad) Hakim, have been arrested in the Narada case. This is the long awaited justice... My question is what happened to Suvendu Adhikari? What happened to him?
"He also received money from me and it was recorded and handed over to the CBI. What happened to him? Justice has to go to everyone in the same manner."
Staying away from commenting on the arrests, West Bengal BJP chief spokesperson, Shamik Bhattacharya, said, "People are tired of hearing the theories regarding the arrests. The BJP is not linked to any action taken by the CBI."
Following the arrests, TMC supporters took to streets to protest violating the anti-Covid-19 lockdown protocols. Almost the entire state is witnessing massive protests by the TMC supporters.
A massive crowd swelled outside the CBI headquarters at the Nizam Palace and also threw bricks, stones, and shoes at the central police.
With the bail being granted, the crowd started to disperse only to return back late at night after the politicians were ordered to remain in judicial custody.
Expressing concern over the situation, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is at the loggerheads with the state government, tweeted, "Concerned at alarming situation. Call upon @MamataOfficial to follow constitutional norms & rule of law. Police @WBPolice @KolkataPolice @HomeBengal must take all steps to maintain law & order. Sad- situation is being allowed to drift with no tangible action by authorities."
Concerned at alarming situation. Call upon @MamataOfficial to follow constitutional norms & rule of law.— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) May 17, 2021
Police @WBPolice @KolkataPolice @HomeBengal must take all steps to maintain law & order.
Sad- situation is being allowed to drift with no tangible action by authorities.
"Message @MamataOfficial 'Total lawlessness & anarchy. Police and administration in silence mode. Hope you realize repercussions of such lawlessness and failure of constitutional mechanism. Time to reflect and contain this explosive situation that is worsening minute by minute.'"
Invited attention @MamataOfficial “On channels and in public domain I notice arson and pelting of stones at CBI office. Pathetic that Kolkata Police @KolkataPolice and West Bengal Police @WBPolice are just onlookers.— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) May 17, 2021
Appeal to you to act and restore law and order.”
Earlier, TMC MP and party de facto number two, Abhishek Banerjee has urged all people to show restraint amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
Abhishek 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."
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.— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) May 17, 2021
We have utmost faith in the judiciary & the battle will be fought legally.
Even Firhad Hakim's daughter Priyadarshini Hakim while raising questions on the fairness of the bail being stayed appealed for calm in the state.
All inside images' credit: UNI