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The Supreme Court today agreed to hear the case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the State of West Bengal and its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at 10.30 AM on Tuesday.
While doing so, the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi stated that it did not find anything in the application regarding destruction of evidence, as claimed by the CBI.
The CBI approached the Supreme Court against the “non-cooperation” of the West Bengal government after the State Police detained, and subsequently released, the CBI officials who visited Kolkata to question the Commissioner of Police, Rajeev Kumar.
Kumar was heading the Special Investigation Team that was probing the Saradha Chit fund Scam and the Rose Valley Ponzi Scam. He was summoned for questioning by the CBI on several occasions after some documents relating to the scams went missing. Kumar allegedly ignored these summons and is accused by the Interim Director of the CBI of “destroying evidence against himself.”
On February 3, a team of CBI officers landed at Kumar’s doorstep to question him on the cases. The Kolkata Police then restrained the CBI officers from entering Kumar’s bungalow, and detained them at a Police Station.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI today, submitted before the Bench that the CBI Joint Director was “held hostage” at the CBI office yesterday. He went on to state,
“There are some extraordinary circumstances…We apprehend that electronic evidence might be destroyed.”
As revealed by Mehta, one of the applications filed by the Centre is to surrender the evidence before it is destroyed. The second application alleges contempt for flouting of the orders and judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the Saradha scam case.
CJI Gogoi eventually said that he would list the matter for hearing tomorrow, at which point Mehta urged that it be heard this afternoon. In response, Gogoi J said,
“We have gone through your interim application, there is nothing in it (on destruction of evidence).”
CJI Gogoi, while agreeing to hear the case tomorrow, gave liberty to any person who can bring proof regarding the allegation of destruction of evidence.
“If you can raise some evidence that the CP was even remotely thinking of destroying evidence, we will come down so heavily on him, he’ll regret it”, CJI Gogoi remarked.
The prayers enlisted in one of the applications include:
After the CBI team was released by the State Police, the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee launched a fierce attack on the BJP-led government at the Centre. Banerjee accused the Modi government of trying to destroy the federal structure of the Indian democracy and staging a “Constitutional Coup” in Bengal.
The allegation comes as the CBI attempted to investigate Kumar without a warrant or prior permission from the State.
The Supreme Court, in its 2014 order, had handed over the responsibility of probing the Saradha chit fund scam to the CBI and had directed the state government authorities to cooperate in the investigation. However, in November 2018, in the wake of the infighting within the CBI, West Bengal was one of several states to withdraw ‘general consent’ for CBI investigations in the state without prior permission from the state government.
This controversy has taken a political turn, with Mamata Banerjee staging a dharna against the BJP government, which she claims is targeting opposition parties for holding anti-BJP rallies.
Read the application: