Saradha accused Bengal minister gets bail, opposition cries foul

Kolkata, Oct 31 (IANS) Nearly 11 months after he was arrested in the multi-crore rupee Saradha scam, West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra was on Saturday finally granted bail by a court here.

Taken into custody by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on December 12, Mitra was subsequently charge sheeted by the agency for several offences including criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal breach of trust.

While the ruling Trinamool Congress expressed happiness over the move, the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Congress dubbed the bail a result of a tacit understanding between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool.

Granting the bail on a bond of Rs.2 lakh, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (in-charge) Alipore, Partha Das directed Mitra to submit his passport and not to go out of the state. The minister has also been asked to appear before the investigating agency if and when summoned for the purpose of the investigation.

Mitra’s bail plea had been rejected multiple times including by the Calcutta High Court. Congress leader and noted advocate Kapil Sibal too had unsuccessfully pleaded for his bail in a court earlier.

Citing non availability of the case diary, the CBI counsel pleaded before the court to defer the hearing but the plea was turned down.

Pressing for his bail, Mitra’s counsel said the CBI has failed to substantiate its charges against the minister.

“Not a single investor testified against him. The CBI kept on opposing his bail but they could not produce any evidence about his involvement in the case,” said Mitra’s counsel Ashok Mukherjee.

While he has repeatedly denied allegations of his involvement in the scam, Mitra who used the head Saradha’s employees’ union, participated in several events of the tainted group and heaped praises on the now jailed Saradha chairman Sudipto Sen for creating job opportunities.

Suspended Trinamool leader Kunal Ghosh who too is behind bars in the scam, had named many party colleagues, including Mitra, in a “tell-all” video that was made public after his arrest.

As soon as the news of his bail spread, Trinamool supporters and family members rushed to the state-run SSKM Hospital where Mitra is undergoing treatment. Mitra has spent the major part of his incarceration period at the SSKM.

While his legal team worked overtime to complete the procedural formalities of his release, Mitra is likely to walk out only on Sunday.

Expressing happiness over Mitra’s bail, Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: “Mitra’s bail once again vindicates our stand that none of our party members are involved in the scam.”

However, the opposition was not impressed.

“One the one hand we saw the CBI investigating team just few days back was summoned to Delhi in name of reviewing the case, on the other, (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee after keeping mum for months suddenly started to attack (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. This is a blatant and calibrated move by the BJP and the Trinamool. Mitra’s bail is only a result of that tact understanding,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha member Mohammad Salim.

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too attributed a BJP-Trinamool nexus behind the “CBI’s inefficiency”.

“The court had to grant him bail because the CBI could not produce sufficient evidence. And we all know why CBI could not produce the evidence. Its Modi-Mamata bonhomie,” he said.

Meanwhile, the agency said it was preparing to move a higher court in appeal against the order.

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