Twelve hours after being arrested Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and former TMC minister Sovan Chatterjee over their involvement in the Narada scam case, they have been granted bail by a special CBI court on Monday evening.
After hearing the plea for over one and a half hours, Justice Abhijit Mukhopadhyay granted bail to all the accused bail.
Advocate and TMC Serampore MP Kalyan Bandhopadhyay who fought the case for the ruling TMC said that interim bail has been granted to the TMC leaders against two 25 thousand rupees bail bonds.
“Initially the CBI wanted police custody and then gradually asked for jail custody. The video of Narada scam where the TMC leaders were seen taking bribes is not illegal as if you ask for bribe and then if someone gives it then it is crime but suddenly if someone gives money on their own then it is not considered to be illegal,” claimed Kalyan adding that he had asked the judge to even arrest BJP leaders Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy who were also seen in the sting operation.
Kalyan Bandhopadhyay also alleged that the CBI is vindictive and that while the proceedings were on, the Special Public Prosecutor of CBI has also manhandled him. “On one side the CBI is being vindictive, on the other side, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is making unconstitutional moves. Without consulting the state government and the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and even the speaker Biman Banerjee or pro-tem speaker Subrata Mukherjee, the Governor has sanctioned the arrest of the TMC leaders. But at the end, the verdict came in favour of the truth,” further mentioned Kalyan.
According to CBI officials, the agency is likely to move Calcutta High Court and if needed they might also move the Supreme Court regarding this matter.
Notably, the CBI officials demanded jail custody of the accused as according to them all the leaders are heavyweights and the CBI fears that if set free the leaders might destroy the witnesses.
Meanwhile, TMC MP Saugata Roy said that this verdict is another fall of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the CBI.
Earlier in the day, the CBI office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata became the latest political battleground as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived along with the kin of these politicians and demanded that she also be arrested, while angry protestors gathered at the site defying the ongoing coronavirus lockdown and hurled stones and bricks at security personnel.
Banerjee sat on a dharna from 11 am to around 5 pm demanding the release of the TMC leaders, reminiscent of her protest against the CBI's move to question the then Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in 2019 in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam case.
The CBI officials said Banerjee's actions are akin to interference in the probe handed over to the agency by the Calcutta High Court.
As the news spread, hundreds of Trinamool Congress party supporters gathered defying the ongoing lockdown, raised slogans against the BJP-led NDA government and clashed with security personnel.
The agitators also burnt tyres and blocked roads in several other parts of the state, including Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts.
Taking note of the widespread protests across the state, state governor Jagdeep Dhankhar urged the chief minister to contain the "explosive situation" and asked her to weigh the "repercussions of such lawlessness and failure of constitutional mechanism".
The CBI had approached the West Bengal Governor seeking sanction to prosecute Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee, the officials said, adding the sanction was received on May 7, following which the CBI finalised its charge sheet and moved to arrest them.
What is the Narada scam case?
The case pertains to a purported sting operation conducted by Mathew Samuel of Narada TV news channel in 2014 in which TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were purportedly seen receiving "illegal gratification" from representatives of a fictitious company for favours, the CBI has alleged.
The agency has alleged that Hakim was seen to have agreed to accept a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from the sting operator while Mitra and Mukherjee were caught on camera receiving Rs 5 lakh each.
Chatterjee was seen receiving Rs 4 lakh from the sting operator, it added. The tapes became public just before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal but had no impact on the poll results and Banerjee returned as the chief minister of the state.
The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation on April 16, 2017.
The CBI had named 13 persons in the FIR registered on April 16, 2017, which included four TMC leaders-Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee, who held the position of ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government in 2014.
Hakim, Mukherjee and Mitra were re-elected as MLAs in the recently concluded West Bengal assembly polls, while Chatterjee, who left the TMC to join the BJP, has severed links with both parties.
The sanction to prosecute the remaining eight FIR accused, all the then Members of Parliament, has not been accorded yet, officials said.
(With PTI inputs)