Calcutta HC forms benches for Ponzi scheme matters, criminal cases involving lawmakers
The formation of a separate bench for Ponzi scam cases is being viewed in political circles as a significant development since several prominent leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) figure among the accused.Updated: Sep 22, 2020, 00:03 IST
Calcutta high court chief justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan has constituted a two-judge bench that will exclusively hear chit fund or Ponzi scam cases every Friday starting September 25.
The chief justice has also formed a two-judge bench and a single-judge bench that will hear all pending criminal cases involving sitting and former members of the state legislature and Parliament. These two benches became operational on Monday.
Formation of a separate bench for Ponzi scam cases is being viewed in political circles as a significant development since several prominent leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) figure among the accused. No TMC leader, however, has commented on this.
With over six months left for the West Bengal assembly elections, heightened activity by Central probe agencies since August has prompted the TMC to allege “political vendetta by the Bharatiya Janata Party.”
On August 24, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sent notices to five TMC leaders in connection with the 2014 Narada News sting operation, the videos of which were made public before the 2016 Bengal assembly polls, seeking details of their family property. The videos purportedly showed high-profile TMC MLAs and MPs receiving money to help a fictitious company.
On August 26 and 27, the Kolkata office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the Narada case as well as the Saradha, Rose Valley and MPS Group Ponzi fund scams involving thousands of crores of rupees, revamped its economic offence wing. Two officers of the rank of superintendent of police flew down from Delhi to join duty.
The CBI is trying to wrap up the probe in the Saradha Ponzi fund case involving an estimated Rs 2,460 crore that was raised from around 1.8 million depositors from West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh. Sudipta Sen, who owned the group, is in jail. TMC’s former Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh spent over two years in jail in this case.
The Rose Valley scam, involving around Rs 17,000 core, is the biggest Ponzi scam in Bengal in terms of money involved. In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the CBI to investigate the scams and the role of ‘influentials’ in money laundering. The ED is conducting a parallel probe.
In the Narada case, the CBI filed the FIR in March 2017, acting on a Calcutta high court order that was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, the trial in this case is yet to start.
“We welcome the formation of the new benches. Court proceedings got delayed because of the Covid-19 lockdown. A separate bench for Ponzi scams will help common people who lost their money,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.
“The Calcutta high court is overseeing the probes into the Ponzi scams as well as refund of money to investors, around 200 of whom have died by suicide. Thousands of depositors have been waiting for refunds since 2013-14. Faster hearings will help them,” said lawyer Arindam Das who represents the cheated investors of Saradha, Rose Valley and MPS groups.
The official notification (No 3477-RG), announcing formation of the three benches was issued by Rai Chattopadhyay, the high court registrar general, on Saturday.
Justice Joymalya Bagchi and justice Suvra Ghosh will hear all pending criminal cases involving sitting or former lawmakers. The single bench in this matter will be headed by justice Bibek Chaudhuri.
Justice Joymalya Bagchi and justice Jay Sengupta will take up Ponzi scheme cases.
On August 26, while hearing a bail petition filed by MPS Group owner Pramathanath Manna, who is in jail for six years, the division bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Suvra Ghosh expressed displeasure and asked the CBI why the trial has not started yet.