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Monday, June 21, 2021

Calcutta HC to CBI: Should public perception override verdict?

The agency submitted a supplementary affidavit, giving a detailed timeline of the May 17 incident when the central agency arrested two TMC ministers, a TMC MLA and a former mayor of Kolkata that led to a protest by TMC workers outside the CBI’s Nizam Palace office in Kolkata.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
June 3, 2021 6:14:23 am
The High Court has given interim bail to all the four arrested by the CBI.

The CBI, which is seeking transfer of the 2016 Narada sting case trial to the Calcutta High Court, on Wednesday stressed again that the lower court proceedings were “vitiated” by “external actions” and contended that “in a criminal trial, perception is significant.” The agency also submitted a supplementary affidavit, giving a detailed timeline of the May 17 incident when the central agency arrested two TMC ministers, a TMC MLA and a former mayor of Kolkata that led to a protest by TMC workers outside the CBI’s Nizam Palace office in Kolkata.

In its affidavit, the CBI said, “The Hon’ble CM, Mamata Banerjee entered the office of CBI at Nizam Palace, followed by Kalyan Bandhopadhyay and others… The Chief Minister remained seated in the chamber adjoining to the chamber of DIG/HOB for more than six hours along with the arrested accused persons, lawyers and politicians.”

Continuing with his argument before the five-judge bench of the High Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, said, “In this country, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact the chief minister, the entire cabinet is coming out in support of accused and putting pressure on the system.”

He said impartiality in the present context was not any allegation against the trial court judge of bias, pecuniary or personal. “It is the proceedings being vitiated due to external actions of others… In a criminal trial, perception is significant. The appearance of injustice is denial of justice.”

To this, Justice I P Mukherjee asked Mehta, “Let us accept your submission that a reasonable man gets a perception that there was bias due to external events. But who according to you is a reasonable man and what led to such a person to get that perception?… Those are questions of fact. Would you be able to establish these before this five-judge bench?”

Justice Soumen Sen said, “Let me tell you what is troubling me. We have always deprecated media trial. But public perception of conduct of the trial in a case where the order of special court otherwise seem to survive (on merits). That order has also not yet been challenged. Will public perception override all other considerations?… Suppose there is a media trial and is asking for conviction, but the court finally acquits him, then should public perception override the verdict?”

Mehta replied, “Absolutely not. I am not relying on media reports to establish the perception element. I am relying on media reports to show the fact that CM was in the CBI office and the law minister was in the court complex.”

Justice Harish Tandon asked, “If hypothetically let us say bail application was rejected despite such external actions, then will the trial be vitiated?”

The High Court has given interim bail to all the four arrested by the CBI.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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