Narada case: House arrest ordered for 2 Bengal Ministers, others
All four West Bengal politicians who were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) this week, will be put under house arrest, the Calcutta High Court ordered today. The four leaders - including two sitting Cabinet Ministers - were arrested on Monday in connection to a sensational bribery case dating back to 2014. Here are more details on this.
The High Court passed this order after the two-judge bench experienced a difference in opinion - Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ordered a house arrest while Justice Arijit Banerjee was in favor of an interim bail. The matter will now be referred to a larger bench to take a call on bail, they said. However, no time frame has been revealed for that yet.
"One of the members thought it fit to grant interim bail. The other did not agree. So this has to be considered by (a) larger bench. In the meantime, considering pandemic, house arrest given," the court said today.
Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, had asked the court to stay its order and keep the leaders in custody. Mehta said the accused could threaten the witnesses. The central probe agency wants all case proceedings to be transferred to a special CBI court. It may also challenge the fresh order in the Supreme Court, sources told NDTV.
Meanwhile, senior advocates Abhishek Singhvi and Sidharth Luthra called for an interim bail for their clients and requested that the larger bench should be formed as soon as possible. "House arrest is no less than arrest. They should be released," Singhvi told the court. "These are ministers, MLAs...There has been no slightest allegation of them not cooperating with investigation," the lawyers argued.
The four accused politicians are Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra, and former Trinamool Congress member Sovan Chatterjee. They were arrested from their residences on Monday morning by the CBI. Their arrests led to massive protests and Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, had subsequently camped out at CBI's office and dared the investigating officers to arrest her too.
The case involves a 2014 sting operation carried out by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years in West Bengal. Posing as a businessman, Samuel allegedly asked for favors in return of money from seven Trinamool MPs, four Ministers, one legislator, and a cop, and filmed the exchanges. The tapes were released just ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections in West Bengal.