The CBI has approached the Supreme Court to challenge a Calcutta High Court order allowing the house arrest of four political heavyweights from Bengal – three of whom are from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool – in connection with the Narada bribery case.
The central agency wants today’s High Court hearing – a five-member bench is scheduled to hear a bail plea – to be cancelled.
Those arrested are ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra, and Sovan Chatterjee, a former Trinamool leader who quit to join the BJP before leaving that party in March.
The CBI has submitted a charge sheet in which a dozen Trinamool leaders are accused of either taking bribes or agreeing to do so. Two of them have since joined the BJP.
No action taken against them.
This was after a difference of opinion split the two-member bench – acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ordered house arrest but Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered interim bail.
The High Court also rejected a CBI request to stay its order – which allowed the four to leave jail. The agency had argued they were influential leaders and could threaten witnesses.
The agency also wanted all proceedings to be transferred out of the state.
In dramatic developments last week, central security forces went with CBI officials to the homes of the four leaders, took them to the agency’s main Kolkata office and arrested them.
The arrests sparked massive protests and a furious Mamata Banerjee – who has been made party to the case raced to the CBI’s Kolkata office – daring investigators to arrest her too.
A CBI special court heard the case virtually and granted bail to the four, but when the agency sought the transfer of the case to the High Court, their bails were put on hold.
The Trinamool has questioned the timing of these arrests, which come days after Ms Banerjee’s victory in April-May elections that became a nasty battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party has also questioned the decision to not prosecute Suvendu Adhikari – a ex-Trinamool member who is now a BJP MLA – and Mukul Roy – another ex-party leader now with the BJP.
The Narada case involves a 2014 sting op by a journalist who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as a bribe and taped the entire exchange.
The tapes were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.