Updated: May 25, 2021 10:39:11 am
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested four ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay in the Narada bribery case.
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.
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All of them were state ministers when the Narada sting operation purportedly showed them taking money. 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.
What is the Narada case?
The Narada sting operation was conducted by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years in West Bengal. Conducted in 2014 for the news magazine Tehelka, it was published on a private news website Narada News months before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections. Samuel is the former managing editor of Tehelka.
As part of the operation, Samuel formed a fictitious company named Impex Consultancy Solutions and approached several TMC ministers, MPs and leaders, asking them for favours in return for money.
In the 52-hour footage photographed by Samuel and his colleague Angel Abraham, then TMC MPs Mukul Roy, Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Bannerjee, Suvendu Adhikari, Aparupa Poddar and Sultan Ahmad (he died in 2017), and state ministers Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim and Iqbal Ahmed were seen accepting alleged bribes in the form of wads of cash in exchange for extending unofficial favours for Impex Consultancy Solutions, which was floated by Samuel himself.
IPS HMS Mirza (now suspended) was also seen taking cash from Samuel. TMC leader Shanku Deb Panda was also seen asking for shares in Samuel’s fictitious company in exchange of promised favours.
Although Mukul Roy (who is now the national vice-president of the BJP) was not seen accepting cash in the video but he was seen asking Samuel to visit his party office with the promised cash. Suvendu Adhikari is now a BJP leader and the Leader of the Opposition in state Assembly. Sovan Chatterjee had joined the BJP in 2019 but quit the party this year after he was denied a ticket for the Assembly polls. Panda is also with the BJP now.
Samuel claimed that K. D. Singh, TMC Rajya Sabha MP and majority owner of Tehelka, knew and funded the entire operation. Samuel claimed that the budget of the operation was initially set at ₹2,500,000 but was later increased to ₹8,000,000. Singh, however, refuted his involvement with any aspect of the sting.
The state government initiated its own probe which booked Samuel under multiple sections of the IPC 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 500 (defamation), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) etc. On August 5, 2016, the High Court stayed the state probe for ad infimum, observing that the police cannot run a concurrent investigation along with a court-monitored probe.
On March 17, 2017, the Calcutta high court ordered that a preliminary probe will be conducted by the CBI. The court also directed the CBI to register an FIR against those who were involved in the case, if required.
On March 18, 2017, the state initiated disciplinary proceedings against SMH Mirza.
On April 16, 2017, the CBI filed a First Information Report against 12 Trinamool leaders for “criminal conspiracy”. The CBI also subsequently summoned all of the leaders involved to assist in the investigation. All of them were booked under Section 120 B of IPC (criminal conspiracy), Section 13 (2), 13 (1D) and Section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Enforcement Directorate is also running a parallel investigation. It has lodged a case about misappropriation of public funds under Anti-Corruption-Act and has issued multiple summons to the accused and Samuel, himself.
Since the sting operation involved Members of Parliament, a Lok Sabha ethics committee was also set up to initiate a probe to determine if the persons committed a breach of privilege of the house concerned. The committee sat only once after the incident.
On May 9, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, on a request by the CBI, sanctioned the prosecution of Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee,
”Honourable governor is the competent authority to accord sanction in terms of law as he happens to be the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the Constitution,” read the statement issued by the officer on special duty (communication), Raj Bhavan.
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