Former West Bengal cabinet minister and TMC heavyweight Madan Mitra was granted bail by Kolkata’s Alipore court on Friday. Mitra was chargesheeted by the CBI and arrested on December 12, 2014 in the Sharadha chit fund scam.
In jail for 21 months, Mitra was finally granted bail after he submitted a bond of Rs 30 lakh, to be paid in two installments. The court had also asked Mitra to submit his passport and present himself before the local CBI office weekly. While Mitra’s counsel had argued that Mitra was now an “ordinary citizen”, no longer an MLA or a minister and that the investigation progress had been minimal. The CBI counsel had argued that Mitra needed to be incarcerated to “prove to the society that they do not need to fear any longer as the cobra is behind bars.” The bail was granted to him by additional district and sessions judge Uttam Kumar Nandi after the bail petition was heard on Thursday.
Mitra’s lawyer, Gopal Halder said, “He has been granted an interim bail after it was argued upon that he wasn’t an ordinary person. He has been in custody for 634 days, so there is no problem if he’s released now on bail.” The CBI, which is probing the scam, has repeatedly opposed the bail plea made by Mitra, putting forth the argument that as an influential political leader, he could influence the course of the investigation or tamper with evidence. The Calcutta High Court’s Nishita Mhatre division had also rejected the bail plea, stating him “influential” and on the basis of ‘violation’ of court decorum.
Senior counsel Milan Mukherjee and Niladri Bhattacharya had submitted on Thursday, that the “purpose of the investigation, as far as Madan Mitra” was concerned ceased to exist on February 18, 2015 — the date on which the CBI filed their first supplementary chargesheet in which Mitra was named. Rejecting the CBI’s claim that Mitra was “influential”, they argued that in the time that Mitra has been in the custody “he has lost his ministry and MLA position, so where is the influence as claimed by the CBI?”
“Speedy trial also includes speedy investigation. In our case the petitioner (Mitra) was last interrogated on 28 December 2015 in custody. The question that I raise is where does the investigation end I get the right appeal for the bail?,” submitted Mitra’s counsels. The main points raised by Mitra’s counsel were firstly, “what is the progress of investigation”, if there is any “progress regarding further investigation…into the offence regarding Mr Mitra” and secondly “if his custody is required in the changed circumstance” of Mitra now being an “ordinary citizen”.
CBI counsel K Raghavcharyulu, along with Parth Sarathi Dutta had submitted that it was “not possible at this point to provide evidence but there are material findings against” Madan Mitra, while adding that “there has been suppression of facts”. The argument posed by the CBI before the court on Thursday was that Mitra “did not resign from his post of ministership, he lost the post due to curse of the 99 souls who had committed suicide due to the scam” and that even though “he was not a minister any longer, his power has not diminished”.
He added that as many as 160 companies were floated — 320 branches and 347 bank accounts with 2,21,000 agents and Rs 2,500 crores. “All this couldn’t be done by Sudipto Sen alone,” said the CBI counsel while adding, “Incarcerating Mr Mitra is to prove to the society that they do not need to fear any longer as the cobra is behind bars and cannot harm them, thus they can come out and give statements.” Mitra, who was named in the chargesheet is accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy with Sudipta Sen, the Saradha boss who is also in jail right now.
Mitra was re-nominated as the party candidate from his Kamarhati constituency in the state Assembly elections earlier this year. But even though he contested from jail, he lost the elections.