May 29, 2021 4:56:01 am
A five-judge Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Friday granted interim bail to four Trinamool Congress leaders who were arrested by the CBI in the Narada case on May 17.
The four TMC leaders had been under house arrest since May 19, when a two-judge Division Bench of the court passed a split verdict on the question of interim bail, and referred the matter to a five-judge Bench.
On May 17, the Division Bench had stayed the bail granted to the TMC leaders — Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee — by a Special CBI court.
The five-judge Bench — comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justices Indra Prasanna Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen, and Arijit Banerjee — will take up the TMC leaders’ recall (of order) application at 12 noon on Monday.
“Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we are of the view that the factual and legal issues, sought to be raised by them, may require some time for final determination. At this point of time considering all circumstances we deem it fit and proper to grant interim bail to the accused,” the five-judge Bench ordered on Friday.
The interim bail was granted against a bond of Rs 2 lakh each, with two sureties of like amount. The CBI can continue to investigate the accused through video conferencing, the court said.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta opposed the grant of interim bail, saying the accused were influential people who could gather a mob by arousing public emotions again.
Justice Mukerji asked Mehta why the TMC leaders, who had not been arrested during the CBI’s investigation for over four years after the case was registered, should be kept under house arrest now, when they were required to carry out their public responsibilities during the pandemic.
Mehta submitted: “I have reservations on interim bail. If interim bail is to be granted, I have two prayers: Interim bail must be subject to final order of the case. That is, if I succeed, the interim bail must be cancelled.
“Second condition, that the accused may not give press interviews, media statements, etc. on the subject matter of the case and that if they are required to attend court or investigation, they may not gather crowd or a mob.”
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the accused, said, “As regards the condition of mob gathering, if this court orders that, it will be presumed that they had gathered mob. It is like asking have you stopped beating your wife? These kinds of submissions are made only for the press…”
Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, also representing the accused, said: “These concerns can be obviated if they are asked to join investigation by VC (video-conference).”
In their order granting interim bail, the judges said: “The…accused persons shall make themselves available for interrogation in the course of further investigation, if any, of the alleged offence, as and when required by the CBI. Considering the lockdown imposed in the State of West Bengal, the interrogation may be carried out by virtual mode. The…accused…shall not tamper with the evidence or attempt to intimidate or influence the witnesses. (They) shall not give any press interview or make any public comments in connection with the cases pending in this Court or in the trial Court, pertaining to the alleged offence concerning themselves or any other co-accused.”
The CBI this week withdrew its appeal before the Supreme Court against the Division Bench order sending the TMC leaders to house arrest after a Vacation Bench of the top court said it would not intervene until the five-judge Bench of the High Court, which was already seized of the matter, had reached a decision.
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