- CBI sought transfer of the case out of Bengal
- 2 Bengal ministers, an MLA, an ex-Trinamool leader have been arrested
- The Trinamool Congress has questioned the timing of arrests
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her law minister Moloy Ghatak and party leader Kalyan Banerjee have been made party to the Narada bribery case by the Central Bureau of Investigation during a hearing in Calcutta High Court today. The agency, which sought transfer of the case out of the state, has asked that the four accused, who were arrested earlier this week and are now in jail, be placed in police custody.
In its plea before the High Court, the CBI said it could not seek their custody on Monday "as a result of the terror created by and at the behest of the arrested accused persons" by the presence Chief Minister and the others.
Bengal Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamool MLA Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee -- who went from the Trinamool to the BJP but quit that party too -- were arrested in the Narada case on Monday after the Governor gave clearance for their prosecution.
Soon after the arrests, a huge crowd of Trinamool workers had gathered outside the CBI's Kolkata office. The Chief Minister, who had gone there, had held a dharna at the spot, contending that the way the ministers were arrested "without due procedure", the CBI "will have to arrest me too".
The Chief Minister, the CBI said, had remained present outside its office "along with a well-engineered crowd of thousands of miscreants and after ensuring media presence".
This, the agency said in its petition, was "part of the larger and well thought of design to terrorize the investigating agency and preventing it from discharging its statutory functions freely and fearlessly".
In the circumstances, asking for their custody and their movement would have led to serious law and order problem, and it refrained from doing so out of prudence, the agency said.
The four arrested leaders had got bail after a seven-hour drama on Monday but it was put on hold by the High Court the same evening following an appeal by the agency. The issue also reached the Supreme Court with a caveat filed by the CBI after the ministers asked the High Court for a revocation of its order.
The Trinamool Congress has questioned the timing of arrests – days after Mamata Banerjee's sweeping victory in the assembly elections, which had turned into a battle between her and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party also questioned why no sanction has been given for the prosecution of Suvendu Adhikari -- a former Trinamool Congress minister who is now a BJP MLA from Nandigram -- and Mukul Roy, who has also joined the BJP.
Both are accused in the same case and Ms Banerjee has alleged that their shift in allegiance has absolved them of their role in any crime in the eyes of the BJP.
The Narada case involves a sting operation conducted in 2014 by a journalist from Narada news portal, who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribe and taped the entire operation.
The tapes were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.