While the CBI has turned the heat on Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha scam, its probe against former Railway Minister and ex-Trinamool Congress vice president Mukul Roy, which started in 2015, went cold within months. Similar is the case with Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sharma. In connection with alleged payoffs, he was summoned by the agency, his home was raided, but he was not named in any chargesheet.
Both Roy and Sarma joined the BJP during the probe. The agency, which began the probe in 2014 on the orders of the Supreme Court, questioned Roy on January 30, 2015. Roy was being investigated for his alleged role in Saradha’s news operations and for his association with Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen. CBI had a statement of Sen’s driver giving details of how Roy allegedly helped Sen flee Kolkata.
The CBI summoned Roy in 2015 after allegations by TMC MP Kunal Ghosh. Ghosh was arrested in 2013 for cheating, breach of trust and criminal conspiracy in a case related to a complaint by a Saradha Group firm over failure to pay salaries to employees. Within hours of his arrest, Ghosh had named 12 people behind the scam including Roy.
Roy joined BJP on November 3, 2017, after negotiations that started in 2015. As for Sarma, he was questioned by the CBI on November 26, 2014. Two months earlier, the agency had raided his house and a news channel owned by his wife in Guwahati. Sarma was accused of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha’s chairman Sen for helping him run his business in Assam. Sen alleged politicians, bureaucrats and media barons from Assam had fleeced him and had in a letter to CBI named them.
But the agency never named Sarma in any of the chargesheets filed. Sarma joined BJP on August 28, 2015 and has not been called by CBI for examination in the ponzi scheme.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Roy said that when CBI questioned him, he was with the TMC. “I joined BJP in 2017 while CBI questioning took place in 2015. How can they say that I have taken favours from the BJP”, he said. Repeated phone calls and text messages sent to Sarma remained unanswered. When contacted, the CBI spokesperson declined to comment.
The CBI summoned Kumar on October 18, 2017, nearly one and half years after he took over as Kolkata Police Commissioner on January 29, 2016. He was subsequently summoned four more times under Section 160 of CrPC between 2017-18 with the last summons being issued on December 8, 2018.
After the first summons, Kumar in a letter to then CBI director Alok Verma on October 27, 2017 alleged a witch-hunt on part of the CBI officers. “You would appreciate that if Commissioners of Police are served notices u/s 160 CrPC in connection with cases which were supervised by them without even trying to make basic correspondence or ascertaining the exact circumstances is like opening Pandora’s box..,” Kumar stated.
The 1989 batch IPS officer was heading the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the West Bengal government in April 2013 to probe Saradha. The SIT ended up unearthing apparent links between the company and ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, and celebrities close to the ruling Trinamool.
On August 18, 2018, CBI wrote to DGP, West Bengal, with names of police officers including Kumar to be examined in connection with the chit fund probe. Two days later, a DIG on behalf of the WB DGP wrote back to CBI proposing a meeting between officers of the State SIT, previous investigating officers and CBI at a mutually convenient place, date and time.
While the West Bengal DGP wrote to the CBI demanding a joint meeting of CBI and IOs of SIT, the agency sleuths insisted on questioning the police officers who were involved in the probe at the initial stages.
CBI officials claimed that the examination of Kumar was required as the SIT headed by him was the first to enter the premises of the Saradha Group post collapse and there are allegations that important documents which could have provided important leads were removed to cause disappearance of the evidence.
Officers of the SIT, in fact, filed a petition before the Calcutta High Court alleging that the CBI has been issuing notices with malafide intentions. The agency issued fresh summons to Kumar on December 8, 2018 asking him to appear before the agency on December 18, 2018. The WB DGP responding to CBI’s summons wrote asking the agency to send their queries and then decide on the meeting with Kumar.
A month and half later, CBI officials, in an unprecedented move, visited Kumar’s residence for a secret operation but were detained by the Kolkata police precipitating the ongoing faceoff. The CBI has filed six chargesheets naming high-profile TMC leaders Kunal Ghosh, Madan Mitra, Srinjoy Bose among others.