Calcutta High Court, in a late night hearing of CBI plea, stays bail granted by trial court to arrested top Trinamool leaders, including Ministers, in Narada sting case

Published : May 18, 2021 17:16 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee leaves the CBI office at Kolkata on May 17. She was there for six hours after the arrest of TMC Ministers and MLAs in the Narada sting case. Photo: PTI

Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, influential Trinamool Ministers, Madan Mitra, senior party leader and MLA, and Sovan Chatterjee, former Trinamool Minister, had to spend a night in prison after the Calcutta High Court in a late night order on May 17 issued a stay on the bail they were granted by a city court after being arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier in the day in connection with the Narada sting case. All four were lodged in the Presidency Central Correctional Home in Kolkata.

The four political heavyweights will remain in judicial custody until the next court hearing on May 19. In the early hours of May 18, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sovan Chatterjee were shifted to the SSKM Hospital after they fell ill.

Referring to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s challenge to the CBI to arrest her as well and her sit-in in the CBI office for six hours after the arrest of her party leaders, the Calcutta High Court in its order said: “This court has been called upon to deal with an extraordinary situation where Chief Minister of the State can sit on a dharna outside the office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (for short, ‘CBI’) along with her supporters, which had investigated the case and was to present a charge-sheet in court against the accused who are senior party 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 mob of 2000 to 3000 supporters.”

The bench comprising acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee highlighted the importance of “public trust and confidence in the judicial system”. The order stated: “They may have a feeling that it is not rule of law which prevails but it is a mob which has an upper hand and especially in a case where it is led by the Chief Minister of the State in the office of CBI and by the Law Minister of the State in the Court Complex.” On May 18, the Calcutta High Court admitted a review petition on the stay order granted against the order of bail passed by the lower court.

The arrest of the four Trinamool heavyweights had led to widespread agitations across the State and scenes of violent protest were witnessed outside the CBI office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata. Trinamool activists, disregarding the near-complete lockdown announced by the State government, assembled in hundreds and hurled rocks and glass bottles at the Central forces standing guard outside the CBI office where the party supremo Mamata Banerjee had stationed herself.

While being led away to prison, Firhad Hakim said that there was no crime in being popular. Said the influential Cabinet Minister: “I am popular, that is why thousands of people have come out to support me. But what is my crime? Have I not cooperated with the CBI? …For the sake of others, why have I been convicted?” Firhad Hakim, or Bobby as he is popularly known, expressed “full faith” in the Indian judiciary and said he was certain that he and his party colleagues will be acquitted through the due process of law. “BJP can buy the CBI and ED [Enforcement Directorate]. We may next be investigated by the ED and be harassed. But the judiciary will not remain silent and we will get our justice through the judiciary,” he said. A visibly emotional Hakim pointed out that he was appointed specifically by the Chief Minister to combat the COVID crisis. “They did not allow me to save the people of Kolkata,” he said breaking down.

The video of the sting operation carried out by news portal Narada News showed top Trinamool leaders, including Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee (who was then with the Trinamool) accepting cash from a fictitious company in exchange for promises of favours and lobbying. The other top Trinamool leaders shown in the sting footages include the late Sultan Ahmed, Lok Sabha MP, Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee and Iqbal Ahmed. Two other influential Trinamool leaders who featured in the video were Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy, both of whom have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though the sting operation was carried out in 2014, the video was made public in 2016. Referring to the fact that neither Suvendu Adhikari nor Mukul Roy were arrested by the CBI, Madan Mitra said, “We understood at least one thing: We are bad, Mukul and Suvendu are good.” Even Mathew Samuel, the man behind the sting operation, expressed dismay that Suvendu Adhikari was left out of the CBI list.

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