‘First time special bench assigned to take away liberty’: SC on Calcutta High Court late night order staying bail of 4 TMC leaders

New Delhi, May 25: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took a dim view of a late-night order of Calcutta High Court by which interim bail given to 4 TMC leaders in a bribery case was stayed and instead their house arrests was ordered.

Though the Apex Court later withdrew its observations, the judges caused some commotion when they said they were intrigued over the High Court reversal of the order on interim bail.

A Bench of Justices Vineet Saran and BR Gavai said that special benches are usually constituted to protect liberty unlike in this case wherein the opposite happened, reports Bar & Bench, on online site on litigation news.

"A special bench is assigned to protect liberty. This is for the first time that a special bench was assigned to take away the liberty," remarked Justice Gavai.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, submitted that the conduct of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other top leaders of the TMC -- after the CBI had effected the arrest -- had vitiated the atmosphere and the order of the CBI court granting bail could not be sustained on that ground.

The Bench, however, disagreed with the Solicitor General and observed that those incidents involving actions of TMC ministers have to be seen separately and cannot influence grant of bail to the accused.

"We have to see if bail has to be granted or not. For other issues, other remedies are there. Take action against such officials," the court remarked.

"We also have been tried to be pressurized. I was hearing an anticipatory bail plea in Aurangabad in 2013 and mahila morcha people came inside court. The police asked me to not to pass orders but I passed orders in open courtroom," Justice Gavai recounted.

With that, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the CBI to withdraw its appeal against the Calcutta High Court's midnight order; the agency can now pursue the matter in the High Court.

The court was also keen to clarify that its earlier observations do not constitute an opinion on the merits of the case, adding that the West Bengal government and leaders are also free to raise their submissions in the highcourt.

West Bengal Transport Minister Firhad Hakim, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the CBI on May 17 in connection with the Narada sting tape case that is being investigated by the agency on a 2017 order of the highcourt.

Because of differences on May 19 on the grant of interim bail to the four accused, the HighCourt Bench of Active Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justie Arijit Banerjee had referred the matter to a larger bench of five judges, which is now hearing the matter.

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