An unpremeditated comment by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee indirectly appealing to Trinamool Congress activists to hit the streets in case the central agency sleuths reach her doorsteps have sparked major debates in the political and legal circles in the state.
Late Sunday evening at a public rally in south Kolkata, the chief Minister said, “Are you all scared? What will you do if they reach my house tomorrow? Will you not hit the streets? Will you not fight the democratic battle?”
The opposition parties in the state have described the chief minister’s comments as an expression of the apprehension that the tentacles of the probe by central agencies in various corruption cases might reach her and her family members.
State BJP spokesman in West Bengal, Samik Bhattacharya questioned why the chief minister was instigating her party workers before the central agencies have not given indication so far that anything like reaching the doorsteps of the chief minister might happen. “Is it an indirect admission of involvement in corruption apprehending probable central agency actions in the coming days,” he said.
The CPI-M central committee member, Robin Deb said that the fear is evident in the body language and statements of the chief minister. “Otherwise, she would have said that let the agencies do their duty,” he said.
Meanwhile, the legal brains in the state are divided over whether the chief minister’s comments were a clandestine criminal act encouraging her followers to deter public servants from performing their duties.
According to senior counsel of the Calcutta High Court and the CPI-M Rajya Sabha member, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, the chief minister indirectly admitted that she is directly involved with the corruption. “At the same time, she has committed a criminal offence by instigating her inane party workers to hit the streets if CBI sleuths reach her doorsteps. This happens when lawbreakers come to power,” Bhattacharya said.
However, senior counsel of the Calcutta High Court, Kaushik Gupta, slightly disagrees with the observation of Bhattacharya. “I don’t think that the chief minister’s comments are tantamount to criminal offence. She made a hypothetical statement on a hypothetical situation that central agency activities at her doorsteps might happen. There are provisions in the Indian Penal Code for punishment for deterring public servants from performing their duties. The chief minister’s comments could have been deemed as a criminal offence had she said this when or after the agency action had taken place. But right now, her comments cannot be deemed as a criminal offence,” he said.