West Bengal is once again witnessing high drama just weeks after the fever pitch elections as three of the top TMC leaders and ministers got arrested and CM Mamata Banerjee challenged the CBI to arrest her as well. Although Monday’s daylong drama ended with the Calcutta High Court refusing to give bail to the three arrested TMC heavyweights Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra, it resumed on Tuesday morning with three of the four arrested being rushed to hospitals.
The four Bengal leaders Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee were taken to the Presidency Correctional Home in Kolkata late on Monday night after their bail was rejected in the Narada sting case.
On Tuesday morning, former TMC leader and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and TMC MLA Madan Mitra complained of uneasiness and discomfort and were admitted to the SSKM Hospital’s Woodburn Ward. A few hours later, Subrata Mukherjee too complained of uneasiness and was also taken to the SSKM Hospital while Firhad Hakim remained at the Presidency jail.
Raid, arrest, bail and back in jail
Early on Monday, the day started in Kolkata with the news of minister Firhad Hakim being picked up by the CBI from his south Kolkata residence. Soon, it emerged that CBI had carried out parallel raids on three TMC leaders and Sovan Chatterjee, a former minister. The four leaders were taken to the CBI office even as hundreds of TMC supporters started protesting on the roads and jostled with the central forces as they took away Firhad Hakim.
TMC supporters and several leaders soon reached the CBI office and started protesting outside the gates. Within minutes, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached the CBI office and challenged the probe agency to arrest her as well. While Mamata stayed put inside the CBI office premises, hundreds of TMC supporters started pelting stones at the building as the security personnel tried to control the crowd.
After six hours of sitting inside the CBI campus, Mamata finally exited the building on Monday evening even as TMC supporters continued with their protests outside and also in front of Raj Bhawan. Later during a virtual hearing after CBI submitted its chargesheet, special CBI judge Anupam Mukherjee granted bail to all four after hearing their lawyers and the counsel for the agency. Later at night, the Calcutta High Court rejected the bail. The four leaders were then taken to the Presidency correctional facility with their families waiting outside.
Governor's consent illegal: Bengal Speaker
The arrest of TMC leaders took a controversial turn after the speaker of the state assembly termed the probe agency’s action based on the governor’s consent “illegal and unethical". Speaker Biman Banerjee said, “Recently, the matter was up for hearing at the Calcutta High Court and then the judge asked the CBI whether they have taken the consent of the state Assembly speaker to prosecute them (those who were arrested today) or not. We informed the advocate general that no such consent was given. The CBI has not sent us any letter or communication in this matter.” The Calcutta High Court then gave a clear instruction to the CBI to take the consent from the speaker, he said. “In the meantime, the CBI, instead of approaching the state assembly speaker, met governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and he accorded prosecution sanction against the leaders.