After Andhra Pradesh, Mamata Banerjee puts up ‘no entry’ sign for CBI in West Bengal
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday has decided to stop the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from investigating cases in Bengal, the second state after Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh to prevent the federal agency from operating within their respective state.
The move is seen to be triggered by perceptions in the two states ruled by opposition parties who have frequently accused the CBI of acting at the behest of the BJP-led national coalition at the centre.
“If you see the developments in last 2-3 months, CBI is being misused for political purposes,” Andhra home minister N Chinarajappa said to explain his government’s order. He said the government’s decision to block the CBI from operating arose out of a sense that the agency was being misused by the Centre.
Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party was a part of the national coalition till March this year but the two parties had a bitter falling out over special category status for Andhra Pradesh.
Since public order and police comes under the state government under the constitutional scheme of things, the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act – the law governing the CBI – requires states to give the central agency a general consent to act against central government employees within the state.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had been one of the first ones to cheer Chandrababu Naidu when news of his decision came in public domain.
“He did the right thing. We should also think about it. Instructions (to the agency) are given from BJP offices,” Mamata Banerjee said at a meeting of the Trinamool Congress’s core committee meeting during the day.
She followed up on her comments and summoned a high-level meeting soon after. Sources said it was at this meeting on Friday evening that the government decided to follow in footsteps of Andhra Pradesh and restrict the role of CBI officers in the state.
“In 1989, the Left Front government gave a general consent for the CBI to operate here. The government is withdrawing the consent,” said a senior state government official.
The government order withdrawing consent does not apply to CBI investigations conducted on court orders.
In Bengal, CBI is investigating a few high profile cases such as Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi scams and the Narada sting operation in which about 20 Trinamool leaders -- ministers, MLAs and MPs -- are allegedly involved.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, a CPM leader and former mayor of Kolkata told HT that too much was being made of this consent.
“Withdrawal of general consent is nothing but a populist jargon. The rule is, if CBI has to investigate anything dealing with any matter in a state, the consent of the government is necessary. But the consent is not required if the agency is dealing with any matter of the central government,” said Bhattacharyya, also a senior advocate.
But first Chandrababu Naidu’s initiative struck a chord among some opposition-ruled states.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi: “Chandrababu has done the right thing. Modi is misusing the CBI and Income Tax Department.” Kejriwal went one step to advise Naidu to banish the Income Tax Department from the state too.