Saradha Scam: Calcutta High Court grants Rajeev Kumar Interim Protection from Arrest [Read Order]

Saradha Scam: Calcutta High Court grants Rajeev Kumar Interim Protection from Arrest [Read Order]

Meera Emmanuel

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar interim protection from arrest in the ongoing Saradha scam probe being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

An order to this effect passed by the the Vacation Bench of Justice Protik Prakash Banerjee states,

For a period of one month from the date of reopening or until further order, whichever is earlier, the petitioner shall not be subjected to coercive process or be arrested…”

The interim protection is, however, subject to several conditions, including Kumar’s cooperation with the CBI in the investigation. The various conditions imposed by the Court for the grant of interim protection to Rajeev Kumar include the following.

  • Restrictions on travelRajeev Kumar is to deposit his passport with the investigating agency. He has to remain at his present residential address unless he is required to move to a hospital or a nursing home on grounds of medical emergency. His attendance at his residence is to be recorded at his own residence at 4 pm every day. CBI officers authorised to check on the same are not to be hindered in any manner.
  • Cooperation with the CBI: While Kumar cannot be arrested, he is expected to cooperate in answering questions posed to him by the investigators under Section 161 of the CrPC in the fullest manner. However, when he is required to meet CBI officers, he will be entitled to be accompanied by his staff up till the doorway of the room where may be interrogated. He is not, however, entitled to bring along any other representative. The Court also added, “It is needless to mention that he will not be forced to incriminate himself as mentioned in Section 162 of the Cr.P.C. read with Article 20 of the Constitution.” 
  • Restrictions on communication: The order places restrictions on telecommunication. In this regard, it states, “The petitioner shall be entitled to take assistance of the mobile phone provided that the number where he is calling, is disclosed to the investigating agency.”
  • No transfer out of Kolkata in any case: In this regard, the Court has also issued an order to the West Bengal government. The order states, “The requirement of the Petitioner to stay at home as aforesaid in Kolkata shall stand regardless of any order posting him or assigning him to any duty outside jurisdiction of the Kolkata Police Commissionerate. I make it clear that the State of West Bengal shall not be entitled to send the Petitioner out of Kolkata even on official duties and if necessary he shall be permitted to work from his official residence.”

The CBI has been granted liberty to move the Court for modifying the order or altering any of the above conditions. Rajeev Kumar was also granted liberty to apply for an extension of the interim protection. However, the anticipatory bail plea made by him was rejected as not maintainable.

The Court has also issued notice in the matter. Justice Banerjee has noted that the primary question to be considered is,

“… whether in the absence of any allegation of an offence under Sections 201/202 of the Indian Penal Code for questioning in connection with another matter as a witness who has not been cited, such course of treatment as meted out to the petitioner is, in accordance with law and due process as mandated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

The matter has been posted to be taken up next on June 12 before the regular Bench.

Rajeev Kumar has been granted leave to file a supplementary affidavit regarding a contempt application, which the Court noted is yet to be brought on record. The same is to be affirmed by June 4 and served on the CBI and the Joint Secretary’s office within two days thereafter. The opposite parties may also file their affidavit in opposition if they choose to.

On a parting note, Justice Banerjee also made certain remarks expressing his disapproval over the allegations being thrown by both sides to the controversy. His order records,

Before parting with this matter at the interim stage, I shall put on record my view that while custodial interrogation is not the norm for high officials who have credible roots in society and who are reliable and whose absconding shall not be apprehended lightly, in the instant case, an attempt was made by both the sides to bring to my notice certain other allegations which, in my humble opinion have no place in judiciary.

All that the Court considers is whether the investigating agency has a statutory right or discretion to act as it does and whether it has done so reasonably, fairly and conscionably. Other allegations to incite passions have no place in this Court.”

Senior advocate Sudipto Moitra appeared for Kumar, along with advocates Gopal Chandra Halder, Navanil De, Rudradipta Nandy and Rajeev Kumar Jha.

For the CBI, the ASG’s office was represented by Senior advocate Y Dastoor, assisted by advocates Anirban Mitra and Samrat Goswami. 

The High Court order comes days after the Supreme Court first withdrew the interim protection it had granted to Kumar in the matter, before declining a fresh plea to extend the same.

The CBI had alleged Kumar’s involvement in tampering of evidence collected during an investigation into the Saradha Chit Fund Scam. The probe was initially handled by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Kumar. It is alleged that documents concerning payments made to elected public representatives had gone missing when the case was subsequently transferred to the CBI. In relation to the same, the CBI had sought to interrogate Kumar.

However, the issue assumed dramatic overtones in February this year when a team of CBI officers landed at Kumar’s doorstep to question him. The Kolkata Police restrained the CBI officers from entering Kumar’s bungalow instead and detained them at a Police Station. This led to the CBI moving the Supreme Court.

On February 5, the Court granted Kumar interim protection from arrest while directing that he cooperate with the CBI investigation. The order was passed by the Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

On May 17, the Bench withdrew the interim protection, although it had granted Kumar liberty to move the Calcutta High Court in this regard. To ensure that he is not arrested in the meanwhile, the Supreme Court had also ordered that his interim protection would continue for an additional seven days at the time.

However, a lawyers’ strike called in the wake for the Howrah Court violence was cited as an obstacle to Kumar moving the Calcutta High Court during this seven day period. To prevent his arrest, Kumar, therefore moved a fresh petition before the Supreme Court Vacation Bench for the extension of his interim protection.

A Vacation Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, however, declined to interfere last week. The Bench informed that it cannot pass an order in the matter when the Chief Justice has already directed that an application seeking a similar relief be heard by the Bench that passed the May 17 order.

[Read the Calcutta High Order]

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