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Narada sting case: Calcutta HC asks CBI why it didn’t file a normal appeal against bail

On May 17, the CBI, which is probing the 2016 Narada sting case on a previous order of the High Court, had arrested ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee.

Written by Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
June 4, 2021 4:30:45 am
Mehta, in response, cited a provision empowering the Chief Justice to list an appeal for hearing by a bench of three or more judges.

The five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the CBI counsel — Solicitor General Tushar Mehta — why the agency approached the court in an ‘extraordinary’ manner by sending a letter on May 17 that was treated as a writ petition in the Narada sting tapes case against three ruling Trinamool leaders and a former Kolkata mayor and not by way of a normal appeal a few days later.

Mehta, in response, cited a provision empowering the Chief Justice to list an appeal for hearing by a bench of three or more judges. “As a general rule, bail applications land up before a single judge but there is an exception for bail applications in pre-conviction stage for offences which are punishable with more than seven years (of imprisonment),” Mehta said.

Mehta further pointed out how the Supreme Court transferred a trial from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, based on a letter saying, “Of course, this is not something which can be exercised routinely. It is only for exceptional circumstances.” To that, Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal of Calcutta High Court said, “You should also argue for bail on merit. But in that respect, you will be replying to them (accused). They will have to argue for bail first.”

On May 17, the CBI, which is probing the 2016 Narada sting case on a previous order of the High Court, had arrested ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee.

The special CBI court had granted them bail the same day, but the order was stayed after few hours by a Division Bench of the High Court on a writ petition filed by the CBI. The Division Bench remanded the four to judicial custody. It also then referred the matter to a larger bench of five judges following differences between Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee over granting interim bail.

The five-judge bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee, is hearing the CBI plea seeking transfer of the Narada case from the trial court to the Calcutta High Court, alleging that the lower court proceedings were “vitiated” by “external actions”

On Thursday, after the CBI wrapped up its submission, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing the accused, started his argument by raising five issues. “One, on established principles of bail jurisprudence, should the May 17 order by (a) special judge be reversed? This is the single most important issue. Two, what is the additional implication qua the accused of admittedly not being heard on May 17 by Division Bench of High Court? Three, prima facie, regarding order of release of accused, is the absence of sanction from a competent authority severely damaging the Prosecution’s case? Four, would it be a valid exercise of 407 powers to transfer the present case from the special judge to (the) High Court/ any other court? And five, the mobocracy issue: Even if question 4 were answered in the negative against the CBI, should the special judge proceedings be declared null and void on a 226/227/482 basis?” he argued.

Singhvi further said, “There is no article of law which suggests that to examine obstruction or access to justice, perception of common man is a ground. If this is accepted, then no actual obstruction would be needed. Only a perception of a common man would be required. In such a scenario, any protest on the streets of Kolkata would be an obstruction. The problem with that argument is (that) no actual obstruction, bias or denial of access to justice, needs to be shown.”

Following Singhvi’s submission, the five-judge bench adjourned the hearing and scheduled it for Monday.

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