Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC team gets anticipatory bail from Tripura court
AGARTALA: Twenty-three members of Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) ordered to appear before the Tripura police for alleged violation of Covid-19 restrictions were granted anticipatory bail by an Agartala court on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.
The team, which arrived in the state last week to assess the potential of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to expand its base ahead of the 2023 state elections, were ordered to stay in their hotel on Sunday evening till their Covid test results come in.
The staffers of the political advisory firm tested negative on Tuesday. The same day, the Agartala police ordered them to appear before the police on August 1 in a case relating to violations of Covid guidelines. The group subsequently approached the court for the shield against arrest.
“The public prosecutor raised objection for their bail. But the court granted them bail,” said Pijush Kanti Biswas, who appeared for them. Biswas is also president of Tripura Congress unit.
Saroj Bhattacharjee, the officer-in-charge of East Agartala police station, suggested the group overreacted.
“We got to know that they got bail from the court. But it is absurd to take bail in a (case filed under a) bailable section,” said the officer-in-charge of East Agartala Police Station Saroj Bhattacharjee.
Bhattacharjee also insisted that the police didn’t detain them as was alleged by the I-PAC team. “They were served a notice under Section 41A (of the Criminal Procedure Code) on July 27,” the officer said. This section empowers the police to summon a person suspected to have committed a cognizable offence.
An I-PAC member said they opted for the arrest shield from the court given how the state administration had acted over the last few days.
“The way administration was dealing with us, it was safe to take bail… We had an indication that we might be stopped from leaving the state when we want to go,” the person said.
Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who has been criticised by opposition parties for the restrictions imposed on the team over the last several days, said the government welcomed all guests. “We believe in the culture of Atithi Devo Bhava. But as Independence Day is close, Covid restrictions have been imposed. In this time, movement of any unidentified persons are seen, the police hold an inquiry,” he said, adding that the government did not intend to interfere in the action taken by the police.
Meanwhile, seven activists from Congress including Subal Bhowmik, who is also a former BJP vice president, joined Trinamool Congress in the presence of West Bengal education minister Bratya Basu, law minister Malay Ghatak and TMC leaders Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, Derek O’Brien and Ritabrata Banerjee.
Subal Bhowmik, who had been with the Congress for decades, joined the BJP in 2014 before returning again to the Congress in 2019.
“We took the decision to join the Trinamool Congress due to need of the time and people. Tripura has jungle raj for the past four years. Mamata Banerjee is the only leader who can show direction to the country. The Trinamool Congress will form its government here in 2023 Assembly polls,” Bhowmik told the reporters after joining.
BJP spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty said everyone was free to exercise their choice, and the party has no comments to make on this. “But I think that he himself has joined jungle raj party. We can see the reflection of jungle raj in West Bengal.”