Narada case: Calcutta high court grants interim bail to 4 TMC leaders

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A five-judge bench of the Calcutta high court on Friday granted interim bail to two Bengal ministers, TMC MLA, former Kolkata mayor arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Narada sting tapes case.

The high court has asked them to submit a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh each with two sureties. They will join the investigation via video-conferencing. They will not give press interviews related to the case.

The Trinamool leaders — Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sovan Chatterjee — were under judicial custody since their arrest by the CBI in the case on May 17.

The four leaders were placed under house arrest on May 19, following a split in the division bench on the question of interim bail, and the matter was referred to the larger bench.

What is Narada sting operation?
Narada sting operation’ was an undercover investigation conducted by a news outlet which aimed to reveal corruption within the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Between 2014 and 2016, founder of the ‘Narada News’ Mathew Samuel conducted a sting operation on at least 12 TMC leaders and an IPS officer in which they were allegedly seen receiving cash in exchange of extending business favors to a firm.

The company named ‘Impex Consultancy Solutions’ was a fictitious firm forged by Samuel to conduct the sting operation.
While the sting operation was started in 2014, it was not published until 2016, ahead of the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections. The sting was published by Tehelka.

Who were named?
TMC leaders, incuding state cabinet ministers, sitting MLAs and Members of Parliament were allegedly caught on camera, either accepting money or responding favourably to Samuel’s proposals.

The 56-hour-long footage caught included Mukul Roy, Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee, Suvendu Adhikari, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmad (died in 2017), Madan Mitra, Sovan Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Iqbal Ahmed, Shanku Deb Panda and now-suspended IPS HMS Mirza.

While Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari are now in the BJP, Sovan Chatterjee had also joined the party but quit ahead of 2021 assembly elections after being denied a ticket.

Legal proceedings
Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government had started a probe against Narada News founder Mathew Samuel.
He was booked under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sections 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 500 (defamation), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy).

However, the Calcutta high court stayed the probe in 2016 observing that the state’s investigation cannot run parallel to a court-monitored probe.
In March 2017, the high court directed the CBI to file an FIR.
In April 2017, the CBI filed an FIR against 12 TMC leaders for “criminal conspiracy” and subsequently summoned them to assist in the investigation.
They were booked under Section 120 B of IPC (criminal conspiracy), Section 13 (2), 13 (1D) and Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also been investigating the case for misappropriation of public funds under the Anti-Corruption Act.

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