Calcutta HC orders CBI probe into Narada scam
Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Friday suffered a major jolt with the Calcutta High Court ordering a preliminary inquiry by the CBI into the Narada sting operation, nearly a year after the breaking out of the scam. The purported sting operation by caught several TMC leaders including Kolkata mayor and state minister Sovan Chatterjee, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, state transport minister and former party MP Suvendu Adhikari, MPs Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, Sultan Ahmed, Saugata Roy and former minister Madan Mitra allegedly taking money.
TMC chief and Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, in her customary style, branded the Calcutta HC order “a BJP conspiracy” and said that her government will challenge it in the Supreme Court. “Everyone knows that the sting was published from BJP office. We are going to higher court against the High Court order on the Narada sting operation,” she said.
The Left Front took out a massive rally here demanding Banerjee also be “brought under the purview of the investigation” and immediate arrests of the TMC leaders “involved” in the Narada scam. The CPIM expressed serious doubts about an effective probe into the scam by the central investigation agency. CPIM Politburo member and party’s state unit secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said, “We have doubts about an effective probe into the Narada scam by the CBI. In the past 10 months, the parliamentary ethics committee did not hold a single meeting even though a number of Trinamool Congress MPs were seen accepting money in front of the camera during the sting operation. Such happenings clearly indicate that there has been a secret understanding between Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee’s governments.”
Political analysts say Banerjee and her party will try to make a political issue out of the developments BJP, in the wake of TMC’s stiff opposition to Narendra Modi and the arrest of BJP leaders by the state CID.
Meanwhile, a division bench comprising acting chief justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice T Chakraborti directed the CBI to take possession of all material and devices related to the sting operation within 24 hours and conclude the preliminary enquiry within another 72 hours. The court directed the CBI to register an FIR, if required, after completion of the preliminary inquiry and initiate formal investigation thereafter. The division bench also noted that a report by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Chandigarh, had said that the tapes were not tampered.
While passing the order, the court observed that conduct of public figures must be beyond reproach. It said that given the persons against whom allegations have been made are ministers, MPs and other senior leaders from the state, it would be just to direct the CBI, and not a state agency, to conduct a preliminary inquiry. Therefore CBI was the most suitable agency for conducting an independent probe into the matter, the High Court said.
Quite significantly, the Calcutta High Court order came close on the heels of the CBI initiating fresh probe and arresting owners of Prayag, another large chit fund in the state with high political connections. Two sitting TMC MPs, Sudip Bandypadhyay and Tapas Pal, had earlier been arrested by the CBI in the Rose Valley ponzy scheme case. Both of them are still in custody in Bhubaneswar.
Ritwik Mukherjee