The Narada bribery case reached the Supreme Court today with the Central Bureau of Investigation filing a caveat as the four Bengal leaders they arrested yesterday appealed to the High Court. The leaders sought a recall of the court’s order putting on hold the bail they received earlier on Monday.
The central agency immediately went to the Supreme Court, urging that no orders be passed on the leaders’ appeal before it hears them.
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 yesterday in the Narada case.
They got bail last evening after a seven-hour drama that had Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appearing at the agency office in Kolkata, alleging they were arrested “without due procedure”.
“The way they have been arrested without due procedure, CBI will have to arrest me also,” she had said.
Later in the evening, the bail was put on hold by the Calcutta High Court, where the agency had challenged it and sought transfer of the case to a different state.
Citing huge crowds of Trinamool Congress workers and supporters at the spot, the CBI said, “The crowd was 2000 to 3000. Stone pelting was resorted to. Some of the supporters even entered the office of CBI and manhandled the staff present there”.
The Chief Minister, the agency said, also sat on dharna there at the spot.
“The matter did not end here. The Law Minister of the state went to the court where the accused were to be presented along with crowd of 2000 to 3000 supporters and remained in court throughout the day,” the agency said in its petition.
“It is a case in which pressure was sought to be put on the officer concerned with mob and the Chief Minister and the Law Minister and other Ministers directly present there along with mob,” the petition further added.
The judges, who placed the leaders in judicial custody and said they would hear the issue on Wednesday, said they would not “touch the merits of the controversy but the manner in which pressure was sought to be put will not inspire confidence of the people in the rule of law”.
Today, senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi appealed for the three Trinamool leaders. Advocate Siddharth Luthra appealed for Sovan Chatterjee
The leaders were arrested after sanction for prosecution from Governor Jagdeep Dhankar who tweeted that he was the “competent authority” being the “appointing authority of ministers @MamataOfficial” in 2016.
The Trinamool Congress has questioned the timing of arrests – coming as it does after Mamata Banerjee’s resounding victory in the assembly elections that had turned into a direct fight between her and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party has 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. Mr Adhikari is also an accused in the case and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla is yet to give sanction for his prosecution.
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.