Kolkata: In a relief to former Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, the Calcutta High Court granted anticipatory bail to the senior IPS officer in connection with the multi-crore-rupee Saradha chit fund scam on Tuesday, saying it was not an appropriate case for custodial interrogation.
A bench comprising justices S Munshi and S Dasgupta said if Kumar was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the case, he would have to be released immediately on bail by an appropriate court on two sureties of Rs 50,000 each.
Observing that Kumar had cooperated with the central probe agency, which is investigating the case, the bench said it was not an appropriate case for custodial interrogation of the petitioner. It directed Kumar, who is currently the Additional Director General of the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department (CID), to cooperate with the investigating officers.
It also directed Kumar to make himself available before the investigating officers in the case for questioning on a 48-hour prior notice by the CBI. On September 21, a pre-arrest bail plea of the IPS officer was rejected by the Alipore District and Sessions Court. The CBI has issued multiple notices to Kumar since May 27, asking him to appear before it for questioning as a witness in the Saradha chit fund scam. However, he did not appear before the CBI investigators and sought more time on every occasion, citing various reasons.
The Saradha group of companies allegedly duped lakhs of people to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore, promising higher rates of return on their investments. The IPS officer was part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the West Bengal government to investigate the scam, before the Supreme Court handed over the case to the CBI in 2014, along with other chit fund cases. The Saradha chit fund scam was unearthed in 2013 during Kumar's tenure as the Bidhannagar Police commissioner.
In January, the Centre and the West Bengal government were locked in an unprecedented standoff after a CBI team reached Kumar's official residence for questioning him but had to retreat as the local police detained its officers. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came out in Kumar's defence and started a sit-in protest against the Centre's move.
The Supreme Court had, on February 5, prevented the CBI from taking any coercive action against Kumar and directed him to cooperate with the agency for questioning at a "neutral place". He was then quizzed by the agency for nearly 40 hours over five days at its office in Shillong in February.
The apex court had, on May 24, refused to extend the protection from arrest to Kumar, which it had granted to him earlier, and asked him to approach the Calcutta High Court or the trial court for seeking relief in the case. The CBI had then summoned Kumar on May 27 for questioning in connection with the Ponzi scheme, against which he had moved the Calcutta High Court.
A vacation bench of the high court had, on May 30, granted Kumar an interim protection from arrest and coercive action by the CBI. The protection was extended from time to time. The high court had, on September 13, vacated its interim order granting Kumar protection from arrest. It had also rejected his prayer for quashing the CBI notice that sought his appearance for interrogation in the case.