After the West Bengal government in November 2018 revoked "general consent" given to the CBI to take up cases against central government staff, the probe agency had to take permission of the state government to file cases against them in the state ruled by the Trinamool Congress.
Since the day general consent was revoked, the CBI's anti-corruption branch in Kolkata has not filed a single case in nearly two years, apart from those ordered by high court or the Supreme Court, for want of consent from the West Bengal government.
On September 21, however, the CBI's anti-corruption branch in Kolkata file two cases - one against professor Sushanta Duttagupta for alleged financial irregularities during his tenure as vice chancellor of Visva Bharati University between 2011 and 2016, and the other against Satish Kumar, Border Security Force Commandant and others on charges of aiding cattle smuggling along the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Both these cases have been converted from preliminary enquiries into First Information Reports or FIRs.
The initial probe against Sushanta Duttagupta was initiated in July 2018, and the enquiry against Satish Kumar started in April the same year. In both these cases, the enquiries were started before the West Bengal government revoked the general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI.
"Though PE (preliminary enquiry) in both these cases was registered two years ago and the enquiry showed prima facie offence, it could not be converted into regular cases (FIRs) for want of consent from the West Bengal government. Now relying on the recent order passed by the Calcutta High Court, we have registered FIRs in these two cases without the consent of the state government," a person with direct knowledge of the matter in the CBI told NDTV, asking not to be named.
The order by the Calcutta High Court in a corruption case involving a central government employee came as an opening for the probe agency to push ahead with filing cases in West Bengal against central government employees even without the consent of the state government.
The high court, after noting that the state government had revoked the general consent, had said, "This Court is, therefore, of the view that, the central government/CBI's power to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be in any way impeded or interfered by the state even if the offenses were committed within the territory of the state.".
This in effect allowed the CBI to file case against central government employees even without the permission of the state government
As on date, states like Rajasthan, Mizoram and West Bengal have revoked general consent granted to CBI, but this judgement of the Calcutta High Court has made the move of the state governments ineffective as the CBI, citing this judgment, can file cases even without the permission of the state governments.
"This judgement of the Calcutta High Court has made Section 6 of DSPE Act, which mandates consent from the state government for registering cases as null and void. Though it's a shot in the arm for CBI as opposition-ruled states are revoking general consent granted to them and making the agency write to them seeking permission each time for registering a case, this judgement is against the concept of federalism. Relying on this judgement, the CBI will start registering cases in the territorial jurisdiction of a state even without the consent of the state government despite law and order being a state subject," a senior police officer told NDTV, asking not to be named. It's surprising the state government hasn't appealed against this judgement, the officer added.
NDTV has reached out to West Bengal government for comments.