Updated: May 17, 2021 10:50:56 pm
The bail granted to West Bengal ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay, who were arrested by CBI in the Narada bribery case, was stayed by the Calcutta High Court late on Monday evening. The four TMC leaders will now be in jail custody till the next hearing in the case on Wednesday.
The arrested leaders were produced at Bankshall Court through a virtual hearing from Nizam Palace earlier in the evening and granted bail. The CBI then moved the Calcutta High Court challenging the move and their bail order was stayed.
Earlier in the day, soon after the arrests took place, hundreds of TMC activists took out protest rallies in the city and elsewhere in West Bengal, flouting lockdown guidelines.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other Trinamool Congress leaders rushed to the CBI office. Banerjee “told our officers that they have to arrest her if they want her to leave Nizam Palace,” sources in the central probe agency told PTI. The sources said Banerjee’s actions are akin to interference in the probe handed over to the agency by the Calcutta High Court. When she left the place in the evening, Banerjee told reporters, “Court will give the decision.”
At the CBI’s Nizam Palace office, TMC supporters broke barriers set up before the main gate and took to sloganeering against Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They also threw bricks and bottles at the central forces who stood guard in front of the office premises.
— ANI (@ANI) May 17, 2021
Many of them also protested in front of the Raj Bhavan against Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who had recently sanctioned the prosecution of the four leaders. Protests broke out in several other areas, including Arambagh in Hooghly district and Kamarhati in North 24 Parganas, where the agitators burnt tyres and blocked roads, demanding immediate release of party leaders.
TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is also the party’s youth wing president, urged the demonstrators to have faith in the judiciary. “I urge everyone to abide by the law & refrain from any activity that violates lockdown norms for the sake of the larger interest of Bengal and its people. We have utmost faith in the judiciary & the battle will be fought legally,” the Diamond Harbour MP and CM Mamata Banerjee’s nephew tweeted.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted, “2 WB senior Ministers arrested in CBI dawn raid w/ huge CAPF contingent. Totally illegal. NO sanction given by Speaker WB Assembly. Governor says gave sanction on May 9 when cabinet swearing in only happened on May 10- is NOT appropriate authority!”
In a series of tweets, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar stated that there was “total lawlessness & anarchy” in the state. He tweeted, “Message @MamataOfficial ‘Total lawlessness & anarchy. Police and administration in silence mode. Hope you realize repercussions of such lawlessness and failure of constitutional mechanism. Time to reflect and contain this explosive situation that is worsening minute by minute.’”
He further added, “Concerned at alarming situation. Call upon @MamataOfficial to follow constitutional norms & rule of law. Police @WBPolice @KolkataPolice @HomeBengal must take all steps to maintain law & order. Sad- situation is being allowed to drift with no tangible action by authorities.”
Concerned at alarming situation. Call upon @MamataOfficial to follow constitutional norms & rule of law.
Sad- situation is being allowed to drift with no tangible action by authorities.
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) May 17, 2021
Earlier TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee alleged that the governor was being “vindictive” in his actions. “The governor is unhappy with the mandate that Mamata Banerjee got this time. The governor has become a bloodsucker. He is now trying to secure a ticket before the 2024 elections from BJP, that is why he is doing whatever he pleases against TMC… You know SC made a judgment during COVID-19 times that police can’t unnecessarily detain, arrest any person. Despite that, CBI & police have arrested (our members),” Banerjee was quoted as saying by ANI.
We’re moving to court. You know SC made a judgment during COVID-19 times that police can’t unnecessarily detain, arrest any person. Despite that, CBI & police have arrested (our members): TMC MP over the arrest of 4 TMC leaders by CBI pic.twitter.com/pzyTrKJSyz
— ANI (@ANI) May 17, 2021
“The daily passengers to Bengal, who were summarily rejected by the people of the state during elections, have hatched a conspiracy for backdoor entry, amid this pandemic-induced crisis,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh was quoted as saying by PTI.
Ghosh, too, urged the party supporters to exercise restraint and not get swayed by emotions. He also sought to know why no action had been taken against Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, two leaders who have quit the TMC to join BJP, given the fact that their names had also surfaced in the case.
Rejecting the allegations, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said both Roy and Adhikari had “co-operated with the CBI investigation, unlike those who have been taken into custody”. He slammed the protesters for openly flouting the lockdown norms. “Instead of demonstrating on the streets, the party should seek a legal remedy,” he added.
The sting operation was purportedly conducted by Mathew Samuel of Narada TV news channel in 2014 wherein people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were allegedly seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.
The tapes were made public just before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal. The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation in March 2017.
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(With inputs from PTI and ANI)
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