Why Bengal minister was shifted to Bhubaneshwar AIIMS from Kolkata hospital

Published on Jul 25, 2022 12:30 PM IST
The Calcutta high court ordered TMC minister Partha Chatterjee’s transfer on the ground that he had “immense power and position” and it will not be impossible for him to “take shelter (in SSKM hospital) under the garb of serious illness and medical treatment to evade interrogation”
West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee (in wheelchair) was shifted out of Kolkata’s SSKM hospital to AIIMS via an air ambulance on orders of the Calcutta High Court. (PTI)
West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee (in wheelchair) was shifted out of Kolkata’s SSKM hospital to AIIMS via an air ambulance on orders of the Calcutta High Court. (PTI)

KOLKATA: West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday in connection with a recruitment scam in government schools, was shifted to AIIMS in Bhubaneshwar on Monday morning from the state-run multi-super-specialty SSKM hospital in Kolkata.

The move comes after the Calcutta high court on Sunday raised questions about Kolkata’s state-run hospital, observing that many high-profile political leaders of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress lately avoided interrogation by investigating agencies taking shelter in the hospital.

“Our experience as a common man with regard to the role of the doctors attached to SSKM super-specialty hospital is not happy. In recent past, more than one high-ranking political leaders belonging to the ruling political party were arrested or directed to appear before the investigating authority for interrogation and they successfully avoided interrogation by the investigating agency taking shelter in the said hospital. When they found that there was no possibility for the investigating agency to interrogate the suspects having strong political background under the umbrella of ruling political party, they were discharged from SSKM hospital. They avoided even production before the court on the strength of medical report issued by the said hospital authority,” a single judge bench of Justice Bibek Chaudhuri said on Sunday.

“Chatterjee was shifted to the NSCBI airport in Kolkata in an ambulance from where he was flown out in an air ambulance to Biju Patnaik International airport in Bhubaneshwar around 8:40 am,” said a senior officer of Kolkata Police.

Chatterjee’s lawyer, an ED official and a doctor of the SSKM hospital accompanied the minister. Chatterjee will be examined at AIIMS by a team of doctors including cardiologist, nephrologist, endocrinologist and a doctor from respiratory medicine.

The medical report of AIIMS would be submitted to the special judge appointed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Kolkata at 4pm. Chatterjee, who will be in Bhubaneshwar, will be produced over a video link.

“The AIIMS medical report will be crucial as based on this, the special PMLA court may decide whether to keep Chatterjee in the hospital or send him to ED custody for further interrogation,” said an ED official.

Chatterjee was arrested on Saturday in connection with the alleged multi-crore recruitment scam in government schools when he was the state education minister between 2014 and 2021. Soon after his arrest, Chatterjee complained chest pain and was shifted to SSKM hospital on orders of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

Several ministers and high-profile leaders of the ruling TMC were admitted to SSKM hospital after their arrest by Central Bureau of Investigationn (CBI).

For example, several TMC leaders including miisters such as Sovan Chatterjee, Madan Mitra and Subrata Mukherjee were admitted to SSKM hospital in May 2021 after their arrest by CBI in connection with the Narada sting operation case. Minister Firhad Hakim was also undergoing treatment from Presidency Jail. Mitra who was arrested in Sarada chit fund scam in December 2014 was admitted to SSKM hospital for a few months. Anubrata Mondol, TMC unit president of Birbhum was admitted in the hospital after being summoned by the CBI in cattle smuggling scam.

Senior TMC leaders and SSKM Hospital authorities refused to comment on the court’s observations.

In this context, the high court on Sunday noted that Partha Chatterjee was the senior most cabinet minister “having immense power and position” and “it would not be impossible for the accused with the aide of other political executives to take shelter under the garb of serious illness and medical treatment to evade interrogation”.

“If this happens, the Lady Justice will be cursed by the tears of hundreds and thousands of deserving candidates whose future was sacrificed in lieu of money,” the court said.

Arpita Chatterjee, a model and actor who was described by ED as a close aide of Chatterjee, from whose house the federal agency seized more than 21 crore cash, US dollars and gold worth several lakh rupees, will also be produced in the same court today. Mukherjee was arrested late on Saturday and was remanded in ED custody by the court on Sunday.

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