In a jolt to Mamta Banerjee-government in West Bengal, the Supreme Court today ordered CBI inquiry into the multi-crore Saradha scam and similar cases in the state. The court also asked the CBI to investigate chit fund-related scam cases in Orissa and other states including Tripura and Assam.
A bench led by Justice T S Thakur said that the aspects of inter-state ramifications and the larger conspiracy angle required an in- depth probe by the premier investigative agency.
The bench asked the CBI to carry out further investigation wherever required. It directed the state agencies to assist the CBI in its probe.
It said regulators in the state governments failed to check the spread of the scam.
In case of West Bengal, the SC was hearing two PILs – one filed by advocates Pratim Kumar Singha Ray and Abu Abbasuddin, and another by advocate Subrata Chattoraj, seeking a CBI enquiry into the scam, which is being opposed by the state. The TMC government had alleged “political motivation” behind the demand.
West Bengal had told the court that there was no need for a CBI probe as an ongoing probe by a special investigation team had made substantial progress. A division bench of Calcutta High Court had said last year there was no need for a CBI probe into the Saradha case.
Social activist Alok Jena filed a similar plea for CBI inquiry in Orissa. At the fag end of the hearing, Orissa government had conceded that the court may direct CBI inquiry in view of the sweep of the scam beyond the state.
The Indian Express had first reported that the scale of the scam was much larger in Orissa.163 chit fund firms have collected around Rs 4,600 crore by defrauding the people in Orissa whereas the chit fund scam in West Bengal is estimated at Rs 2,460 crore. Moreover, at least 10 lakh families, mostly belonging to the low-income group, have been affected by the scam in Orissa.
The court had last month reserved its judgement on the separate PILs.
Mamata Banerjee’s party has been under immense pressure as some of the TMC leaders have come under the scanner of Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently for their alleged links with Saradha. ED, which is probing the matter, has arrested Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen’s second wife and son for alleged money laundering . Sen and suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh are already behind the bars in connection with the scam.