The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted pre-arrest bail to S.K. Supiyan, the election agent of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a murder case probed by the CBI, directing him to fully cooperate with the investigating agency.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Abhay S. Oka said: “Considering the peculiar facts of the case, we are of the view that the appellant deserves to be granted pre-arrest bail. However, the appellant will have to fully cooperate with the respondent-CBI for investigation and will have to remain present for investigation as and when called upon by the investigating officer.”
The bench noted that two chargesheets – one on October 5,2022 and the other on January 9, 2022 – have been filed but Supiyan has not been named as an accused. It further added that the CBI is relying upon statements of 5 witnesses recorded under Section 164 of CrPC.
“The statements of the first two witnesses were recorded on September 7, 2021 and November 11, 2021 respectively. But the appellant was not named in both the charge sheets filed thereafter,” said the bench.
The bench added that statement of Manoj Kumar Bera was recorded on November 18 2021, but he was not cited as a witness in the first two charge sheets and the statements of the other two witnesses have been belatedly recorded on January 24, 2022.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, representing Supiyan, had casted doubt on Bera’s statement and claimed that the CBI tried to implicate his client for political reasons, as he was the election agent of West Bengal Chief Minister. He submitted that most of the witnesses are workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party and for obvious political reasons, and his client has been falsely implicated.
The CBI had pressed for custodial interrogation of Supiyan and relied on statements of the witnesses recorded under Section 164 of CrPC.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the CBI, has submitted that merely because there is some delay in recording the statements of the witnesses, Supiyan cannot be protected, considering the seriousness of the offence.
The court said: “We make it clear that the pre-arrest bail granted to the appellant is liable to be cancelled if it is found that the appellant is not cooperating for the investigation. We further make it clear that we have not made any adjudication on the merits of the controversy.”
The CBI, in its affidavit opposing the pre-arrest bail plea of Supiyan in connection with the alleged murder of a BJP supporter after poll results were declared, said he hatched a criminal conspiracy to teach a lesson to Hindus, who voted for BJP resulting in loss of the Trinamool Congress candidate in the Nandigram Assembly constituency.
The agency claimed that Supian allegedly carried out violent attacks on local villagers, causing the death of Debabrata Maity on May 3 last year.
On February 4, the top court reserved the judgment after hearing arguments on the plea moved by Supiyan against the Calcutta High Court order, which refused to entertain his bail plea. Last month, the top court had granted him interim protection from arrest in the matter.
Banerjee, who had contested from Nandigram, lost the election to her former aide-turned-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Suvendu Adhikari. The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into various incidents of killings and sexual assault, which occurred in the state after election results were declared.