HC allows Mamata Banerjee to file affidavit in Narada case
The Calcutta high court on Wednesday allowed the West Bengal government, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and law minister Moloy Ghatak to file affidavits in the Narada sting operation case but fined the applicants ₹5,000 each for not filing the applications for affidavits on time.
A five-judge HC bench headed by acting chief justice Rajesh Bindal is hearing a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking transfer of the case out of the state, citing law and order problems. The CBI was given 10 days to reply to the affidavits.
On June 25, the Supreme Court had set aside the high court’s June 9 order refusing to accept the affidavits , filed over the role of the politicians on May 17, when four prominent leaders were arrested by the CBI in teh case.
The CBI approached the high court on May 24 to transfer the case out of the state, claiming that on May 17. violent protests orchestrated by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) hampered its probe and intimidated lower courts.
Banerjee and Ghatak missed their deadlines to respond to the CBI plea. On June 9, the high court declined to take the affidavits on record. Banerjee and Ghatak approached the Supreme Court on this point.
The CBI alleged that Banerjee, Ghatak and other TMC leaders played a key role in stopping CBI officials from performing their duty after the four leaders were arrested. It claimed that Banerjee sat on a six-hour-long agitation at the CBI office after the arrests while Ghatak went to the court premises during the virtual hearing of the case. The agency accused Ghatak of trying to influence the judge who heard the bail petition of the accused leaders.
The judge granted bail to the four politicians on May 17 but the high court stayed the bail order the same night. The four leaders have since been released on bail.
During the argument on Tuesday, advocate general Kishore Dutta, who represented the Bengal government, told the bench that the state is responsible for maintaining law and order.
“The state should be given the opportunity to present the actual state of affairs (on May 17) and what action it took. Time will not be lost if the affidavits are taken on record,” Dutta told the bench.
Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who represented Banerjee and Ghatak, on Tuesday said, delay in filing of affidavits cannot be the ground for rejecting arguments and evidence. He argued that the case was not only about the CBI’s petition for transfer but involved important issues matters relating to the state.
Dwivedi said, “The CBI can provide CCTV footage from May 17 so that the facts can be placed before the court.”