Narada sting case: CBI arrests 4, including 2 Bengal ministers
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested West Bengal ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, ruling Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case.
“The CBI has arrested two ministers, an MLA, and a politician in a case related to Narada sting operation... it was alleged that public servants were caught on camera while receiving illegal gratification from the sting operator,” CBI spokesperson RC Joshi said in Delhi.
A CBI officer, who didn’t want to be named, said, “Mamata Banerjee barging into agency office amounts to interference in high court ordered investigation.”
The charge sheet against five accused, including an IPS officer as well, for whom prosecution sanction has been received, is being submitted, he said.
Following the arrest, chief minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI’s office at Nizam Palace in south Kolkata. “Mamata told the CBI officials that she should also be arrested,” said a TMC leader, aware of the development.
The case pertains to a controversy ahead of the 2016 assembly elections after Narada News portal uploaded a series of videos purportedly showing a number of high-profile TMC leaders receiving money in exchange for favours to a fictitious company.
All four leaders have been arrested under sections 120b of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 7 and 13(1)(a) 13(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. With protests going on in the city and tension mounting, the CBI decided to virtually produce the arrested leaders before the special CBI court.
While the Trinamool Congress has alleged that the BJP was taking revenge over its defeat in the recent assembly elections, the latter said that it has nothing to do with the arrest and law was taking its own course.
“Why isn’t Mukul Roy, vice president of BJP, being arrested? He was also seen in the Narada sting operation video saying that the money be given to a IPS officer. The BJP has become vindictive just because they can’t accept their defeat in the assembly polls,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.
“Law is taking its own course. BJP has nothing to do with this. We are not going to comment as BJP is not a CBI’s spokesperson,” countered BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharjee.
Narada News, which had conducted the sting operation, also questioned why there has been no action against Suvendu Adhikari. Its chief executive Mathew Samuel said, “It was a long wait. Finally, I got the result. This is a fight against corruption. My question, is what happened to Suvendu Adhikari? He also received money from me. It was recorded and handed over to CBI. Justice has to go everywhere in the same manner.”
Meanwhile, TMC workers and supporters staged protests at many places across the state. Roads were blocked with burning tyres, and TMC supporters scuffled with security forces outside the CBI office where the leaders were taken for questioning.
“To arrest a sitting legislator, the state’s legislative assembly must be intimated. The CBI, however, did not intimate us (about the arrests). If they have been arrested, it is illegal. Prior permission of the Speaker of the legislative assembly is required for it, but it was not taken. This is undemocratic,” said West Bengal assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee.
CPIM Rajya Sabha MP, former mayor and senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “The arrests were not illegal. I would like to see where it’s written that one has to take the permission of the assembly Speaker to arrest a legislator. Thy have been booked according to the Prevention of Corruption Act. While taking cognizance, the court would see whether the crime has anything to do with the work of the assembly or the Speaker. If it has nothing to do with them, then no permission is required.”
On May 9, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had “accorded sanction for prosecution” of the leaders.
While Hakim and Mukherjee took oath as ministers on May 10, Mitra is a sitting legislator who won from Kamarhati assembly. Chatterjee was with the ruling TMC, but joined the BJP in 2019. He quit the BJP too after being denied ticket in the assembly polls from his traditional assembly seat of Behala East.