CBI files fresh case in Bengal despite state’s withdrawal of general consent
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out searches across 45 locations in four states on Saturday after registering a case against alleged coal pilferer Anup Manjhi who was suspected to be acting in collusion with two general managers and three security personnel of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL), people familiar with the matter said.
The searches were spread across West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, they said. The CBI registered the case despite the West Bengal government having withdrawn its general consent to the agency on November 18, 2018. This is the fifth such FIR (first information report) registered by the agency in the election-bound state this year without the West Bengal government’s nod.
The previous four FIRs were filed in the months of September and October 2020 – on allegations pertaining to financial irregularities involving coal ministry officials in a central provident fund organisation case; against a Border Security Force (BSF) commandant on cattle smuggling; against two scientists at the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS); and a case against a former vice chancellor of Visva Bharati University.
The CBI officially refused to comment on the matter but at least two officials, who didn’t wish to be named, said the agency was using the leverage provided in a Calcutta high court judgment on March 12 this year in Ramesh Chandra Singh & Others Vs CBI.
The high court had observed in its order that “the central government/CBI’s power to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be in any way impeded or interfered by the state even if the offences were committed within the territory of the state”. Ramesh Chandra Singh was a central government employee who was being investigated for disproportionate assets much before the general consent was withdrawn. He had challenged the CBI’s jurisdiction in the state.
A CBI official said, “The high court provided us an opening to file cases in West Bengal. As the high court has mentioned, we now don’t need the state government’s permission to file cases against central government officials.”
TMC leader and West Bengal minister Dr Shashi Panja said, “All allies have deserted the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). Some of their most trusted allies still remain: CBI, ED, etc. It is election season, so Modi-Shah are at it again.”
West Bengal is among the eight states to have withdrawn the mandatory general consent granted under section 6 of the DSPE Act for probes in their jurisdictions. The seven other states are – Rajasthan, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala and Chhattisgarh. Opposition states have alleged that the CBI is being used by the government to target them.
After filing the latest case on Friday evening, CBI teams raided 45 locations in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and recovered ₹40 lakh in cash and several documents.
Those booked include Anup Manjhi alias Lala, ECL general managers Amit Kumar Dhar (Pandaveswar area) and Jayesh Chandra Rai (Kajora area) besides ECL chief of security Tanmay Das, area security inspector Kunustoria Dhananjay Rai and security in-charge Debashish Mukherjee.
CBI spokesperson RK Gaur said the “agency had information from reliable sources indicating illegal excavation and theft of coal in the leasehold area of ECL in connivance with the officials of ECL, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Railways”.
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