The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay in the Narada bribery case on Monday.
All four were picked up from their residences in Kolkata.
The move comes days after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar gave his consent to the CBI for filing a chargesheet against the four accused and sanctioned prosecution against them.
All of them were state ministers who were seen taking money in the purported Narada sting operation. The tapes were released ahead of the 2016 state Assembly polls. The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation in March 2017.
According to CBI sources, a chargesheet will be filed in the Narada case against the four and they will seek custody for questioning.
“I have been arrested. We will fight it out in the court,” said Firhad Hakim while being taken away from his residence.
TMC sources said that the four were made to sign arrest memos. They were taken to the CBI office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata and are currently detained there.
— ANI (@ANI) May 17, 2021
On hearing the news, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other Trinamool Congress leaders rushed to the CBI office as party workers were seen protesting outside. Later in the evening, Banerjee left the CBI office.
The central forces guarding the CBI office had to resort to baton charges to disperse the protesters.
The Trinamool Congress has voiced its protest against the move and has called it “politically motivated”.
“As a lawyer, I can say that this is illegal. One needs to take consent from the Speaker of the state Assembly before arresting an MLA. The CBI only has consent from the Governor,” said Biman Bandopadhyay, lawyer and Speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
“This is politically motivated. The party which lost the polls is now using the CBI to arrest MLAs and ministers,” TMC Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy said.
Hitting out at the saffron party over the arrests, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asked, “Why was an FIR not lodged against Mukul Roy who is now the national vice-president of the BJP? Roy had taken money from former IPS officer Mirza. Also, why has Suvendu Adhikari, who is now the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, not been arrested? He was also seen taking money in the tapes.”
Ghosh added, “That’s because they have joined the BJP and got protection. This is nothing but a revenge tactic by the BJP as they lost the Assembly polls.”
In the recently concluded state Assembly polls, Mukherjee, Hakim and Mitra were re-elected as TMC MLAs.
Mukherjee and Hakim have also been included in the Mamata Banerjee Cabinet and made state panchayat and transport ministers respectively. Sovan Chatterjee had joined the BJP in 2019 but quit the party this year after he was denied a ticket for the Assembly polls.
The Narada sting operation was allegedly conducted by Mathew Samuel of Narada News portal. In the tapes, several TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were allegedly seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in exchange of promised favours.
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