Narada case: Hearing to continue on Thursday; no relief for TMC heavyweights


The high-profile Narada sting case, in which four heavyweights of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal were arrested by the CBI on Monday, spilled over to Thursday as the hearing of the CBI plea to transfer the case to any other state remained inconclusive in the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday.

The two-member HC division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee will also hear a review petition filed by the four arrested Trinamool leaders to recall the high court stay order on the bail granted to them by a special CBI court on Monday. The cases will come up for hearing at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

The state witnessed high drama on 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.

The a lower court granted interim bail to all the four Trinamool leaders on Monday evening, the Calcutta High Court put a stay on the order late on the same night.

In his virtual submission before the court on Wednesday, CBI counsel and Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, said, “The facts are perhaps unprecedented in the history of the country. It is a question of wider import. Cause of justice was frustrated in unprecedented circumstances. There was an orchestrated effort to see that justice was not done. It was well-planned and well thought out to not allow the judge to decide the bail.”

Elaborating on his submission, Mehta argued, “The crowd tried to enter the CBI office and gheraoed it. It was an orchestrated move, making it impossible for the CBI officers to move out of their office… The mob also created hindrance in submitting hard copies of the chargesheet.

“All attempts were to ensure that the accused are not produced before the court … It is imminent and evident that it was intended to terrorise the investigating agency and prevent it from discharging its functions.”

“If these events are not an abuse of the process of law, then I don’t know what it is. Look, the Chief Minister was sitting on dharna for the accused, the Law Minister was present in the lower court all through the day. If this order of the high court is vacated, it will mean that all the orchestrated attempts to frustrate justice succeeded,” he added.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the four Trinamool leaders, said, “No court in India can give an order cancelling bail without giving notice to the accused and hearing the accused… If they want to challenge the bail, they could have done it in the proper manner, not in this chaotic manner.”

“The protests did not impede the CBI to produce them before the court. Anybody has the democratic right to protest. What happened was a peaceful, Gandhian protest by the Chief Minister, Law Minister and others. They exhorted people not to be violent,” he added.

The defence lawyers also reasoned that the CBI was offered a ‘Green Corridor’ by the Kolkata police but it didn’t avail the option, and rather preferred virtual hearing. Even when the CBI officers went to the court, they were escorted by the Kolkata police and in this condition the submission doesn’t stand.

The court on Wednesday raised eyebrows over the large gatherings which were stated to have convened as per the CBI.

“There is no remotest suggestion that the (lower court) judge was overawed,” said Singhvi.

“Should the judge record that he was intimidated,” acting Chief Justice Bindal asked.

“Recording is one word. There is not even a hint or suggestion,” Singhvi responded.

“Have we heard of the Law Minister going to court,” the bench asked.

“How can the presence of an MLA impede justice dispensation, especially when the hearing is virtual,” Singhvi responded.

He further argued that there was an outpour of emotion when the four Trinamool leaders were arrested by the CBI on Monday. However, this does not mean that the justice dispensation system was impeded, Singhvi pointed out.

“How can you explain the Chief Minister’s presence for six hours,” the acting Chief Justice queried.

“Did the judge even know that the minister was there? There were a lot of people there. It was natural,” Singhvi submitted.

Following the arrest of the four Trinamool leaders on Monday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had gone to the CBI office and demanded unconditional release of the party leaders, leading to law and order disruption in the city. This prompted the CBI to go for a virtual hearing in the lower court where the four leaders were granted bail.

The CBI immediately moved the high court demanding a stay on the bail which the court allowed, pushing the arrested persons to stay in judicial custody.

The CBI in its petition on Wednesday appealed for a transfer of the cases to another state, pleading that the arrested persons were influential and it was not possible for the agency to conduct an impartial investigation.

They also made Chief Minister Banerjee, Law Minister Moloy Ghatak and MP Kalyan Banerjee parties to the case. The arrested persons, on the other hand, appealed to recall the stay order given by the high court.