CBI Vs Mamata Banerjee: SC Says CBI Can Question Rajeev Kumar, But Can’t Arrest Him
The Logical Indian Crew West Bengal
February 5th, 2019 / 12:14 PM
Kolkata has been caught in a political whirlwind just months ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Accusing the centre, specifically Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah of plotting a coup against the ruling TMC in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee started a “Save the Constitution” on the night of February 3 at the heart of the capital city.
What did the Supreme Court say?
However, the Supreme Court on February 5 ordered Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to cooperate with the CBI on the investigation and has also issued notices to the West Bengal Chief Secretary, the DGP, and Rajeev Kumar in connection with the contempt of court application that was filed by the CBI. However, a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna made it clear that there should be no coercive steps including the arrest of the police commissioner.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) February 5, 2019
Reportedly, the CBI was represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta while advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of West Bengal. Singhvi submitted to the court that the CBI officials were neither arrested nor detained and that he possesses video footage of the same. The next date for the hearing has been kept on February 20. However, Mamata Banerjee has said that she is yet to decide till when will the dharna continue and that she is happy with the Supreme Court verdict, reported BloombergQuint.
What had happened?
The latest spat between Banerjee and the Centre sparked after the CBI had sent a team to interrogate Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar at his residence on Sunday evening. They were reportedly looking into Kumar’s alleged role in “suppressing” investigations into various Ponzi scams in West Bengal over the last few years, including the infamous Rose Valley and Sarada scams. Meanwhile, a team of Kolkata police had rounded up a team of eight CBI officials who had gone to Kumar’s resident. The Times Of India reported that the local police had taken the CBI investigators to the nearby Shakespeare Sarani police station which triggered the spat. Kumar was heading the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was looking into both the cases before the CBI took over the cases on the apex court’s order.
According to The Wire, West Bengal along with Andhra Pradesh has withdrawn the “general consent” which is usually given to the CBI officials to launch investigations in the state without prior permissions. Reportedly, right after that, hundreds of city police officers were being deployed around CBI offices which houses the residence of CBI joint director (east). The siege ended after they received an order from the CM to de-escalate tension in the state. Reportedly, a team of CRPF personnel had then cordoned off both the offices.
Meanwhile, there were media reports which claimed that the central government asked the Governor of West Bengal, Keshari Nath Tripathi, for a report and that he had summoned chief secretary Malay De and DGP Virendra on late Sunday night.
CBI Vs Kolkata Police
Interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao has reportedly alleged that crucial evidence against Kumar has been ‘instrumental in causing the destruction of this evidence and obstructing justice’ in chit fund scam reported News18. “A SIT has been constituted by the West Bengal government prior to Supreme Court’s direction under the chairmanship of Rajeev Kumar, who is currently the Kolkata police commissioner,” he added.
Reportedly, the investigating agency officials on Saturday contended that Kumar was “absconding” and that he was going to face “imminent” arrest for allegedly delaying the SIT probe. However, additional commissioner of police Jawed Shamim on February 3 called for a press conference at the police headquarters, where he said that the CBI allegations are baseless and defamatory. He even said that Kumar attended office every day and that he had only taken a one-day casual leave on January 31. Moreover, the CBI notices that were sent to Kumar were under a Kolkata High Court stay order until February 13.
Just hours after the CBI and Kolkata police standoff took place at the CP’s residence, Banerjee reached the residence where she met with her top security advisors. They came to the commissioner of police’s home without any court order or warrant. The matter is sub-judice in the Calcutta HC and there is a stay order,” said the Chief Minister immediately after coming out of Kumar’s residence. She also vouched for Kumar’s reputation as a police commissioner and said that this move was an infringement on federal structure. She lashed out against the Centre and accused it of declaring a “super-emergency.” Moreover, she blamed National Security Advisor Ajit Doval for giving orders to the CBI which has resulted in such a scenario.
While the Chief Minister has been continuing with her protest at Esplanade, MPs from the Trinamool Congress have been forcing repeated adjournments of both the houses of the Parliament in the national capital. As the midnight drama unfolded in the eastern state, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury dismissed Banerjee’s move and tweeted, “Corruption cases against TMC govt in chit fund scam have been public for years but Modi govt chose to stay quiet as the top mastermind of the scam joined BJP. It does a drama to act now, after 5 years, and TMC leadership responds by staging a drama to protect its corrupt.”
What the opposition has to say
However, several opposition leaders have come out in support of Banerjee and have termed as the CBI’s move to be unconstitutional. The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP,” said Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
I spoke with Mamata Di tonight and told her we stand shoulder to shoulder with her.
The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP.
The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 3, 2019
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had spoken to Banerjee and expressed solidarity. “Modi-Shah duo’s action is completely bizarre and anti-democracy,” he tweeted.
Written by : Sromona Bhattacharyya
Edited by : Poorbita Bagchi