ED, CBI refuse to appear before Bengal Speaker


The Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), agencies probing the Narada bribery case, have come in direct conflict with the Speaker of West Bengal Assembly, Biman Banerjee, by refusing to appear before him on Wednesday to explain why they had summoned three Trinamool Congress MLAs without the consent of the Speaker.

Banerjee had issued summons to the central agencies to be present at the Assembly premises at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The representatives of the ED and the CBI were supposed to explain as to why they had summoned three elected MLAs of the ruling Trinamool Congress without the consent of the Speaker.

Both the agencies informed the Speaker about their inability to appear before him. Constitutional experts believe that the situation might lead to an unexpected constitutional crisis.

On Wednesday, an official of the ED handed over a letter to Banerjee saying that the agency has fulfilled all the legal formalities.

But instead of meeting the Speaker, he just submitted the letter to the latter’s office. Sources in the Assembly said that the ED authorities made it clear that they would not send any representative to the Assembly.

Sources in the ED also said that its letter mentioned that the agency had taken permission from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, and so the permission of the Speaker was not necessary. The letter also said that it is not possible for any ED representative to appear before the Speaker on this issue.

Similarly, the CBI also sent a mail to the Speaker, saying that it cannot appear before him, pointing out that the Speaker did not have the authority to summon its officers for explanation.

It has also been said that as the investigation is being conducted under the instruction and supervision of the high court, the CBI had the legal binding to submit the chargesheet before the court and in doing so they met will all the legal formalities.

Meanwhile, sources in the ED and the CBI said that that they are consulting legal experts in this matter. They would prefer to take the legal way rather than honouring the Speaker’s summons, sources said.

The Speaker on his part sounded quite stern on this issue, saying: “It will be wrong to think that the matter is a closed chapter. No one is above the law.”

Assembly sources said that there is high possibility that another summon will be issued to both the CBI and the ED.

The Narada scam is a sting operation targeting high-ranking officials and politicians of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government carried out in 2014, which reportedly showed several of them accepting bribes and illegal gratifications in exchange for unofficial favours for the companies offering the bribes.

The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections. The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI-led probe into the Narada scam in March 2017, while the ED was also roped in to investigate the case.

An ethics committee of the Lok Sabha was also set up as the accused involved Members of Parliament.

Four Trinamool leaders — Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee — were arrested by the CBI on May 17 after which West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a six-hour protest outside the CBI headquarters in Kolkata, demanding their unconditional release. Her supporters even gheraoed the compound housing the CBI office.

A special CBI court granted interim bail to the four leaders because the agency had not requested for their custody. The CBI court also cited the Supreme Court’s judgment on prison decongestion. Challenging the CBI court’s order, the CBI appealed to the Calcutta High Court, which revoked the CBI court order and sent the four accused to judicial custody.

However, the Calcutta High Court later ordered the house arrest of the four leaders. Later, they were granted interim conditional bail on May 28 by the Calcutta High Court.