Narada case: Division bench cannot hear CBI’s transfer plea, Bengal govt tells HC



KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Monday claimed before the Calcutta High Court that a division bench cannot hear the CBI’s application for transfer of the Narada sting tape case from a lower court to itself, and said that a single bench should take it up.

A division bench of the high court had referred the matter to a larger bench of five judges following differences between Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee over granting interim bail to two West Bengal ministers, an MLA and a former mayor of the city, arrested by the CBI in the Narada sting tape case.

The CBI has sought transfer of the case alleging extraordinary circumstances wherein West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna in the CBI office after the arrests and the agency not being able to produce the four accused in court physically owing to unruly protests by a large number of people outside its office complex.

Advocate General Kishore Dutta, appearing for the state, submitted that a division bench does not have jurisdiction to hear a transfer application and it should be taken up by a single bench.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta objected to the submission of the AG, claiming that the state does not want the court to hear the matter on merits.

The five-judge bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee, adjourned hearing in the matter till Tuesday.

The five-judge bench granted interim bail on May 28 to ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who were arrested on May 17 by the CBI, which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the high court.

The special CBI court had granted them bail on that day itself, but the order was stayed by the high court, which remanded them to judicial custody.

They had been placed under house arrest on May 21 by the high court, modifying its earlier order of stay on the bail.

The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal, in 2014 wherein some people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.

At that time, the four arrested politicians were ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government.

The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.

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