As West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stepped up her attack on the Modi government over the CBI attempt to question the Kolkata police commissioner on the chit funds scandal in West Bengal, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Monday said the Sunday developments in Kolkata “indicate towards a breakdown of the Constitutional machinery”.
Responding to a brief discussion on the matter in Lok Sabha where TMC members led the Opposition protests, Singh said: “CBI officers were not only prevented from performing their lawful duties, but were also detained at a police station by the Kolkata police. This is unprecedented,” he said.
Singh informed the House that he had spoken to West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi who “has summoned the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police” to end the “confrontation among law enforcement agencies” and provide security to CBI officials. “I have told the Governor to take the trouble of sending a report on the entire issue,” he said.
He said “this sort of confrontation among law enforcement agencies is not only unfortunate, but also poses a serious danger to the federal and political system of the country… If law enforcement agencies, whether of the central government or state governments, are stopped from discharging their lawful duties, it will lead to serious disorder and obstruct work in accordance with the blue book prescribed under the Constitution”.
Acknowledging that “police and public order are state subjects”, he said “we respect the rights of the states on this count” but “the Constitution has conferred this responsibility on the the central government to ensure that the administration in the country is run in accordance with the Constitutional system”.
Singh expressed the hope that the West Bengal government would create a conducive atmosphere so that all agencies could work in an impartial manner without fear and “help establish the rule of law”. He pointed out that the “responsibility for inquiring into the Saradha scam had been assigned to the CBI by the Hon’ble Supreme Court”. The CBI, he said, was stopped from performing its duty when it wanted to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the chit funds case.
Singh said it was “not that the CBI team had gone straight to the Police Commissioner for questioning”. He said “the CBI was forced to do so” because Kumar was “not cooperating”. He was not showing up “despite being constantly summoned… The situation got so serious that we had to deploy the CRPF for the security of CBI officials,” he said.
Home Ministry officials said the Ministry was “closely monitoring the situation” in West Bengal. The Ministry said it will examine the role of some IPS officers in the alleged obstruction of the CBI team. It would seek to determine whether they violated service conduct rules while preventing the questioning of Rajeev Kumar. The MHA is the cadre-controlling authority of the IPS.
Meanwhile, at a press conference held at the BJP headquarters, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the Opposition charge that the CBI move to question Kumar amounted to an attack on the federal structure. Taking a swipe at Opposition parties, Prasad called it an “alliance of the corrupt” and said its “soldiers” from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh, were facing probes in different cases of alleged graft.
He criticised Banerjee’s dharna in Kolkata, saying it defied all norms and the police commissioner’s move to join her protest was in violation of norms guiding conduct of police officers. He said the TMC chief had kept quiet when many of her TMC leaders, including MPs, were arrested but had started a dharna to support a police officer. “It seems he (Kumar) knows a lot of secrets,” Prasad said, adding “these suspicious circumstances clearly indicate that the police commissioner knows a lot and, therefore, needed to be saved by the Chief Minister.”
Referring to the alleged intimidation of CBI officers by the West Bengal government, Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who is also in-charge of the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the nodal ministry for CBI, said that obstructing CBI from performing its duty was itself a “criminal offence”.