In Narada case, law ministry’s opinion over action on TMC MPs sought

Lok Sabha officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that within a few weeks of receiving the CBI’s request, the Speaker’s office had sent the file to the law ministry seeking legal opinion on the matter.
TMC leader Prasun Banerjee was among the four leaders, who were members of the previous Lok Sabha, the CBI initially sought sanction to prosecute.(Samir Jana/HT File Photo)
TMC leader Prasun Banerjee was among the four leaders, who were members of the previous Lok Sabha, the CBI initially sought sanction to prosecute.(Samir Jana/HT File Photo)
Published on Feb 16, 2020 01:42 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Saubhadra Chatterji and Neeraj Chauhan

The Lok Sabha secretariat has sought the Union law ministry’s opinion on a request by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for sanction to prosecute three sitting Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs, accused in the Narada sting operation case, within weeks of receiving the agency’s request, senior officials at the lower house said.

The CBI, which has been probing the case since 2017, had sought the Lok Sabha Speaker’s permission in April last year for filing a charge sheet against the accused MPs. Owing to the general elections, however, no decision was taken. The central agency is still awaiting the approval.

This 2016 sting by the Narada news website operation purportedly showed about important leaders of the TMC accepting cash from a representative of a fictitious company.

Lok Sabha officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that within a few weeks of receiving the CBI’s request, the Speaker’s office had sent the file to the law ministry seeking legal opinion on the matter. “As per protocol, we send the file to the Union law ministry for legal clarification. The law ministry, in turn, refers the matter to Attorney General or Solicitor General. The government’s legal officer’s reply does not come directly to us. It gets routed through the law ministry,” said a senior Lok Sabha official on condition of anonymity.

According to Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, prosecution sanction is mandatory for filing a charge sheet against a public servant before the courts can take cognizance of the charges.

The senior official of the Lok Sabha cited above said the law ministry had returned the file to the Lok Sabha secretariat with its opinion on the issue a few months ago. “But there were still many queries left and the file was sent back for legal opinion with new queries,” said the official. The grounds cited or sanction of prosecution of the MPs were not “entirely satisfactory”, he added.

The agency initially sought sanction to prosecute TMC leaders Saugata Roy, Prasun Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Suvendu Adhikari, who were members of the previous Lok Sabha. Adhikary is not a member of the present Lok Sabha.

The second official said that now the Lok Sabha does not have jurisdiction over Adhikary. The CBI would need West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s approval to prosecute Adhikary, who is a minister in the West Bengal government.

A CBI spokesperson said: “The agency doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations”.

The four TMC leaders were seen receiving money from a journalist posing as a representative of a private company in the Narada sting operation. The sting operation was publicized ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections in 2016. TMC president Banerjee called the sting a political ploy by rivals ahead of the elections.

A senior Trinamool leader refused to comment on the issue, saying these were legal matters and the party was not aware of the developments.

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Monday, October 25, 2021