Barely 19 days after he was granted bail by a lower court, a division bench of Calcutta High Court sent Saradha chit fund scam accused Madan Mitra back to jail on Thursday.
Mitra walked into jail late at night after a copy of the high court order reached the Alipore additional chief judicial magistrate’s (ACJM) court. The high court put him under judicial custody as a ‘first class prisoner’ with full medical attention for 14 days.
Earlier, Mitra reached Alipore to surrender after watching the news of his bail plea being rejected. But the judge refused to put him under judicial custody as his counsel as well as the CBI’s lawyer failed to show any copy of the high court’s order.
The ACJM sent Mitra to jail only after a CBI team collected a copy of the high court order and reached Alipore at 11.15pm.
On Wednesday, there was a desperate attempt to keep this senior Trinamool leader out of prison with the government hurriedly accepting the minister’s resignation from the Cabinet, to counter the CBI’s argument that being an influential member of the ruling regime he could influence witnesses.
But that strategy failed on Thursday after a division bench of justices Nishita Mahtre and Tapas Mukhopadhyay cancelled Mitra’s bail and ordered him to surrender before the Alipore judge immediately.
A long drama played out through the evening before Mitra, finally, headed for Alipore.
“I heard the news on television...the court has cancelled my bail. I honour the verdict and, therefore, I am going to surrender. I comply with whatever the court asks me to do,” Mitra said while stepping out of his home.
The high court order, coming some six months before the Assembly election, put Trinamool Congress leaders in great embarrassment. The Opposition lost no time in criticising the Mamata Banerjee government.
Last December, Mitra earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first serving minister in the state to be arrested on criminal charges. With no forum but the apex court left for appeal, it is now uncertain when, and if, Mitra can walk free again.
“He might have lost his ministry and bail, but the real point is returning the depositors’ money,” said CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra. “You can’t trick the truth,” said Congress leader Abdul Mannan. Jolted by the order, Mitra’s counsel prayed for some relief for his client. First, he appealed for home confinement that a vacation bench had ordered on November 5. He also prayed that Mitra be given seven days to surrender before the court. The judges turned down both the pleas.
Soon after the verdict, PWD personnel swung into action at Alipore Central Jail and kept cell number six ready for Mitra. After his arrest on December 12 last year, Mitra spent a few days in this cell on the first floor popularly known as mandir cell because of its proximity to a temple. In the evening, a section of the prisoners agitated inside the jail protesting the special facilities being extended to Mitra.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the CBI counsel alleged that the lower court had given bail on October 31 without listening to the investigating agency’s plea.
The lower court even did not allow deferring the hearing for one day as the case diary was not available. The investigating officer was also out of town. On Thursday, Mitra’s lawyer argued for Mitra’s bail and quoted various Supreme Court verdicts.
“Madan Mitra is neither a history-sheeter nor does he have any criminal record. He is not a threat to the society. He is a people’s representative. The Saradha case is a case where mere economic offences are involved. His bail will not hamper people’s safety in any way,” argued SK Kapoor. The bench was clearly not impressed by the logic.