New Delhi: Even as the Supreme Court posed tough questions to the CBI, forcing the agency to withdraw its plea challenging the Calcutta HC’s decision to put four Narada scam chargesheeted TMC leaders under house-arrest, the bench questioned the “partial approach” of the bureau in arresting a set of persons named in the FIR while sparing another set of TMC leaders who have now defected to BJP.
At the same time, the court dampened the joy for TMC by strongly disapproving the dharnas by CM Mamata Banerjee, her law minister and others to protest the arrests on May17. On the CBI’s selective approach, the bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B R Gavai asked, “Tell us, who is in a better position to influence the witnesses - those chargesheeted or those who are not? There are two sets of accused. One set chargesheeted, while the other is not. Which set is more likely to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence?”
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta strived hard to paint a grim picture of the law and order situation in Kolkata by narrating how the CM-led mob laid siege of the CBI office on May 17, dared them to arrest her and after six hours went out threatening the CBI officers of arrest, a threat which has been implemented by police by registering FIRs.
Arguing before the bench, the SG said when the CM was laying siege to the CBI office, that the trial court was gheraoed by the law minister and TMC supporters which prevented the public prosecutor from reaching the court. “The PP had to argue through video conferencing and the magistrate had to grant bail as cabinet ministers of the state with nearly 3,000 supporters virtually laid siege to the trial court,” Mehta said.
The bench put a preliminary objection to the CBI’s plea. “When a five-judge bench of the Calcutta HC is adjudicating the CBI's plea against the grant of bail by trial court to the four chargesheeted persons, why should the Supreme Court interfere. It will be better for the Supreme Court to examine the issue, if necessary, after the HC renders a decision,” it said.
Justices Saran and Gavai were also critical that once the chargesheeted TMC leaders - Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee - were granted bail by the trial court, could the HC have cancelled their bail without issuing them notice. On the CBI plea, a two-judge bench of the HC had taken up the issue but returned a split verdict - one enlarging them on bail and the other preferring house-arrest. Thereafter, the acting CJ of the HC referred the matter to a five-judge bench.
SG said that it is a case meriting transfer outside the state for free and fair investigation and trial. But, the bench said, “The HC had acted in an extraordinary manner. When the trial court was sieged of the matter, a special bench of the HC was assigned the appeal filed by the CBI and it took away the liberty of the accused persons even without issuing them notice,” it said, The SG said extraordinary circumstances prevailed at that point with the rule of law being breached by the actions of the CM and the law minister.