The West Tripura District and Sessions Court rejected former PWD minister Badal Choudhury’s plea to extend his anticipatory bail in connection with a probe into alleged irregularities during his tenure. Choudhury was not at his home when the police went to arrest him late on Wednesday night. The court remanded former PWD Engineer in-Chief Sunil Bhowmik, who was arrested earlier in the case, to four days police custody.
West Tripura Public Prosecutor Biswajit Deb said, “The police booked former PWD minister Badal Choudhury, former Engineer in-Chief Sunil Bhowmik and one other person in a case. Mr. Badal Choudhury wasn’t found at his home when the cops searched there. The learned court has heard arguments of both sides on a case of anticipatory bail for him and has rejected the plea (to extend) today. Now there is no bar for arresting him anymore”.
A large contingent of Tripura Police and Tripura State Rifles (TSR) were stationed near CPI(M) state headquarters and West Tripura district headquarters at Melarmath in Agartala city since last evening. They entered the party offices late night after the court rejected Choudhury’s anticipatory bail plea.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Sadar Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Dhruba Nath said, “We are giving I’m our best efforts to arrest him. He hasn’t been located yet but we are doing our best”.
On Sunday, Choudhury was booked along with two others in an alleged Rs 638-crore scam in the award of PWD contracts. He was granted interim anticipatory bail on Monday by the district court.
The former minister was charged under Sections 409, 429, 201 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act. Many of these charges are non-bailable in nature. The FIR was filed after a vigilance enquiry against the former minister. The Communist party has termed the move to book him as “conspiracy” and “political vengeance”.
According to officials, the vigilance probe indicated that the minsiter allegedly violated guidelines on finalisation of tenders and allotment of infrastructure development projects to PSUs and Private Companies. The Public Works Department (PWD) lodged a theft case recently after vital documents pertaining to the tendering process went missing from its office.
The alleged graft took the Tripura Assembly by storm earlier in September this year. Speaking in the Assembly, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who is also in charge of PWD, said, “Nearly Rs. 225 crores was spent in addition to the amount approved by the state cabinet on different infrastructure development schemes in 2008-09 financial year. The then cabinet note on the said subject and note of the then Principal Secretary don’t match. We have started a vigilance investigation after these irregularities came to our notice”.
Badal Choudhury served for four terms as PWD minister in the erstwhile Left Front governments and is a five-time MLA.
CPI(M) leader Narayan Kar arrested
Meanwhile, CPI(M) central committee leader Narayan Kar was arrested for purportedly obstructing Badal Choudhury’s security detail from gaining access to the CPI(M) party office on October 15.
“Choudhury, who evaded arrest in a Rs 600 crore graft case with an interim anticipatory bail, entered the CPI(M) party office on the day and was never seen coming out. His security detail was barred from gaining access inside; they waited outside throughout the night till next day when the court rejected to extend anticipatory bail and the cops searched for him inside party office in vain,” West Tripura Assistant Public Prosecutor in-charge Bidyut Sutradhar told indianexpress.com.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Pradip Kumar Acharjee, who led Choudhury’s security detail, later filed a complaint against Narayan Kar for allegedly harbouring an offender and accused him of criminal conspiracy and obstructing public servant from discharging duty. Kar was produced before a local court today where he was granted bail.