After day-long drama, 4 Trinamool leaders granted bail in Narada sting case

After a day-long drama, four top Trinamool Congress leaders, who were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Narada sting operation case on Monday morning, were granted interim bail by a special CBI court here. The Central probe agency is likely to move the higher court in this matter.

The state witnessed high drama since Monday morning after CBI sleuths arrested two Trinamool Congress ministers — Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee — along with present MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor Sovon Chattopadhyay in connection with the 2016 Narada sting tapes case, in which several politicians and a high-ranked police officer were allegedly found accepting cash for providing unofficial favours to the company.

Speaking to the media after the leaders were granted bail, Trinamool Congress MP and lawyer Kalyan Banerjee said, “The CBI had asked for 14-day judicial custody, but the court rejected the prayer and granted bail to all the four persons who were illegally arrested by the agency.

“I have been constantly saying that the Governor (Jagdeep Dhankhar) has no jurisdiction to sanction prosecution without the advice of the council of ministers led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The CBI asked for his permission in January and he waited till May before giving the sanction. He didn’t even communicate it to the state government.”

“Mamata Banerjee was the Chief Minister till May 3 in her previous term and then resigned and took her oath on May 5. So how can the Governor do this without her permission? Secondly, in the present Covid situation when even the Supreme Court is asking the authorities to empty the jails and grant bails to the prisoners, the CBI is seeking custody of political leaders who are exposed to the people,” Kalyan Banerjee added.

With the granting of the interim bail, a day-long drama came to an end that started in the morning after the CBI arrested two heavyweight ministers and two former ministers of Trinamool Congress, who have been accused of taking bribes in the Narada sting operation case.

Aggrieved with the CBI move, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a sit-in protest at the CBI office for four hours even as agitated Trinamool supporters pelted stones at the central forces besides burning tyres in protest against the arrests.

Considering the deteriorating law and order situation, the CBI officers sought permission for a virtual production of the accused which was granted. The lawyers representing the arrested persons said there was no need for custody for any of the accused since the chargesheet has been filed.

The defence counsels also said that custodial interrogation is not required given the pandemic situation.

The CBI also filed a chargesheet before a city court under Section 120 of the Indian Penal Code and different sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Five accused were named in the chargesheet which included the four leaders arrested on Monday, and former police officer S.M.H. Mirza who was arrested by the CBI in September 2019 and is presently out on bail.

The Narada tapes, which were allegedly shot sometime in 2014, were made public in 2016, months before the state went to the polls. The purported videos showed about a dozen Trinamool leaders, MPs and ministers accepting cash on camera from the ‘operator’ of a fictitious company.

In March 2017, the Calcutta High Court had directed the CBI to probe the tapes following which the agency filed an FIR against 13 persons in April 2017, including the four persons who were arrested on Monday.

Meanwhile, adding fuel to the fire, the main man behind the Narada sting operation of 2016, Mathew Samuel, said on Saturday that while he is happy with the arrests, he wondered why Suvendu Adhikari, who also featured in the sting, has been left out. Adhikari, who was a prominent face in the Trinamool camp then, jumped ship to the BJP in December last year.