A five-member bench of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing of the bail application moved by four heavyweight Trinamool Congress leaders arrested in the Narada sting operations to Friday.
The court decided to hear the recall applications filed by four arrested leaders against stay of their bail in the case, before hearing the larger issues raised by the CBI relating to the breakdown of rule of law in West Bengal and mob pressure on court.
The state has been witnessing high drama since May 17 when 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.
While the high court had stayed the bail granted by a lower court to the four Trinamool leaders, they were later placed under house arrest until further hearing of the case.
On Thursday, the Calcutta HC bench comprising acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and Justices Arijit Banerjee, Harish Tandon, I.P. Mukherje and Soumen Sen began proceedings at 2 pm, and heard the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the CBI and the counsels of the four arrested persons for more than two hours.
“We will hear the recall applications tomorrow morning,” the bench said after hearing the submissions of both sides.
The court also allowed the CBI’s request to make the state of West Bengal a party in the proceedings.
The developments came after advocates appearing for the arrested leaders urged the high court to take up the issue of bail first, as it involved the question of personal liberty of the arrested persons, who are presently under house arrest.
The arrested Trinamool leaders have been under judicial custody since May 17. On May 19, a division bench comprising Rajesh Bindal and Arijit Banerjee had allowed them to be placed under house arrest, after the judges delivered a split verdict on grant of interim-bail to them.
The high court then constituted the five-member bench to hear the case.
On May 17, the division bench had stayed the bail granted by a special CBI court to the four Trinamool Congress leaders.
The bench passed the stay order after a dramatic late-night hearing held on the basis of a letter sent by the CBI, seeking transfer of the case to the high court citing “unprecedented mob pressure” exerted on the lower court by the mass protests led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Law Minister Maloy Ghatak against the arrests of the Trinamool leaders.
The bench on May 24 rejected the request made by the CBI to stay the order for house arrest. It had also declined the request made by the Trinamool leaders’ counsels for their release on interim bail.
The CBI then approached the Supreme Court challenging the order allowing house arrest. However, after adverse observations from the Supreme Court, the central probe agency chose to withdraw its petition from the top court on May 25.