Narada sting: HC grants interim bail to senior Trinamool leaders
The Calcutta high court granted interim bail to four senior West Bengal politicians on Friday in connection with the 2016 Narada corruption case, ending their eight-day-long house arrest.
A five-judge bench directed the four accused leaders to furnish bail bonds of ₹2 lakh with two sureties of similar amounts. The court directed that the accused - ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee - will not give any press interview or make any public comment in connection with the cases pending in the high court or trial court.
“The court has granted interim bail. They will have to abide by certain conditions imposed by the court,” said Manishankhar Chatterjee, Mukherjee’s lawyer.
The leaders were sent in judicial custody on May 17 after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested them and the high court stayed the bail order by a lower court. On May 21, they were placed under house arrest.
Mitra’s lawyer, Niladri Bhattacharya, said the court directed the four to join the investigation by video conference and restrained them from speaking about the pending trial. “The interim bail will, however, be subject to final outcome of the case,” he said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing CBI, objected to interim bail and said the leaders could use their influence to tamper with evidence, make public statements regarding this case, or gather a mob whenever they are called for further investigation or the case is taken up for hearing.
Mitra is under treatment at a state-run hospital, while the remaining three have returned home.
The case against the four leaders pertains to news portal Narada News’s two-year-long sting operation.
The videos of the operation were uploaded months ahead of the 2016 West Bengal assembly elections and purportedly showed some TMC leaders accepting money in exchange for alleged favours to a fictitious company.
TMC has linked the arrests to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s loss in the assembly polls. It has questioned why CBI did not arrest Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy, who were also seen in the sting videos, but have since defected from TMC to BJP.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had refused to interfere with the house arrest order, prompting the agency to withdraw its petition.
CBI’s plea to transfer the Narada trial out of the state is also pending before the high court. It has named West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, law minister Moloy Ghatak, and lawmaker Kalyan Banerjee as respondents in its plea to transfer the case. It has claimed TMC’s protests against the arrests hampered its probe and intimidated lower courts.
Banerjee staged a six-hour sit-in at the CBI’s office in Kolkata after the four were arrested.
Ghatak led nearly 3,000 workers and supporters to the court premises. Outside CBI’s office, hundreds of TMC supporters staged a protest and threw bricks, bottles, and shoes at central forces.