In a setback to former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, the Supreme Court Tuesday refused to accord urgent listing of his plea for extension of the 7-day protection from arrest granted to him in the Saradha chit fund scam case. Kumar has rushed to the top court seeking an indefinite extension of shield from arrest on the ground that work in trial courts in Kolkata and the Calcutta High Court has been paralysed due to the ongoing strike by lawyers.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on May 17 withdrawn the protection from arrest granted earlier to Kumar and said that it would continue for seven days to enable him to approach the competent court for relief. The protection ends on May 23. Kumar’s counsel approached the vacation bench of the apex court on Monday seeking urgent listing of his plea for extending the protection in view of lawyers’ strike in Kolkata.
However, his counsel was told that since the May 17 order was passed by a three-judge bench, he can approach the apex court registry or the secretary general for listing of the matter before an appropriate bench. The counsel then approached the registrar (judicial) of the apex court for urgent listing of the plea.
“The matter was placed before the Chief Justice of India today morning and counsel for West Bengal was informed that the request for urgent listing was rejected by the CJI,” said one of the lawyers who is appearing in the case. Kumar’s lawyer had Monday told the vacation bench that the top court had granted seven days time to Kumar to approach the competent court for legal remedies but four days have already elapsed and they needed time to approach the competent court there.
The apex court, on February 5, had granted protection from arrest to Kumar while directing him to appear before the CBI and “faithfully” cooperate with investigation of cases arising out of the scam. The CBI had earlier told the top court that they needed custodial interrogation of Kumar in the case.
In its May 17 order, the top court had expressed concern over the confrontation between the CBI and the West Bengal Police in the case, saying that “at the receiving end are silently waiting lakhs of small town and rural investors who have been deprived and looted of their savings”. The bench had said the situation was grim as both sides have hardened their stand and there was no administrative mechanism in place to avoid and resolve such conflicts between two wings of the police force in the country.
The court had also noted that the West Bengal government and Kumar have alleged “political vendetta” and have made allegations against M Nageswara Rao, former interim CBI director. In its order, the court had said the CBI had alleged non-cooperation and charged WB state police with “obfuscating investigation by causing impediments and roadblocks with a view to protect big names and members/leaders of the ruling party in the State of West Bengal”.
Earlier, Kumar in an affidavit before the court had alleged that he was targeted by the CBI in the chit fund case due to “mala fide intent” and “conflict of interest” of Rao as his family members were under the scanner post-demonetisation.