Insight Online News
Kolkata, May 28 : In a significant development in the Narada sting operation case, a freshly constituted five-judge Division Bench granted interim bail to the four arrested Trinamool leaders — Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovon Chatterjee, on Friday.
The bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and Justices Arijit Banerjee, I.P. Mukherjee, Harish Tandon and Soumen Sen asked the two state cabinet ministers, an MLA and a former Kolkata Mayor to submit personal bond of Rs 2 lakh each with two sureties.
The court also said that the accused cannot tamper or influence evidence and will have to join the investigation by video conferencing.
The arrested were asked not to give press interviews on pending trials in the Narada case, the HC bench said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, opposed the grant of interim bail saying that the accused are influential enough to affect the pending trial. Mehta also said that the accused have the potential to gather a mob by arousing public emotions, which can derail the investigation or the trial.
At this juncture, the bench asked the Solicitor General if it was necessary to keep the arrested leaders — Cabinet Ministers Hakim and Mukherjee, MLA Mitra and the former Mayor — in custody when they were not arrested during the investigation for over 4 years.
“We want to make one observation. The investigation started in 2017. They were not arrested during the investigation. Normally, arrest is to facilitate investigation. They continue to be as powerful as earlier. Why arrest now?” Justice IP Mukerji, the second senior judge of the bench, asked.
Justice Mukerji asked the Solicitor General why the TMC leaders, who have not been arrested during the investigation for over 4 years, should be kept in house-arrest now, when they are required to do carry out their duties during pandemic.
Mehta registering his reservation on the interim bail said: “I have two prayers — Interim bail must be subject to final order of the case. That is, if I succeed, the interim bail must be cancelled.
“Secondly the accused may not give press interviews, media statements etc on the subject matter of the case and that if they are required to attend court or investigation, they may not gather a crowd or a mob”.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the accused, opposed this and said, “As regards the condition of mob gathering, if this court orders that, it will be presumed that they had gathered mob. It is like asking have you stopped beating your wife. These kinds of submissions are made only for the press, to humiliate them.”
Senior Advocate Kalyan Bandopadhyay, another counsel appearing for the accused, said that he has raised preliminary objections to the maintainability of the petition filed by the CBI – which seeks transfer of the case from the trial court and declaration that the bail hearing was vitiated due to mob pressure.
The bench told him that all issues are left open. The bench will continue the hearing of the main matter on Monday, May 31, at 12 noon.
The arrested leaders have been under judicial custody since May 17. On May 19, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee had allowed them to be placed under house arrest, after the judges delivered a split verdict on grant of interim-bail to them. The High Court then constituted the five-member bench to hear the case.
Previously on May 17, the Division Bench had stayed the bail granted by the Special CBI Court at Kolkata to four Trinamool Congress leaders who were arrested dramatically by CBI on May 17.
The bench passed the stay order after a dramatic late-night hearing held on the basis of a letter sent by the CBI seeking transfer of the case to the High Court citing “unprecedented mob pressure” exerted on the lower court by the mass protests led by Chief Minister and the law minister against the arrests of the TMC leaders.
The Bench that heard the case before on May 24 rejected the request made by the CBI to stay the order for house arrest. It had also declined the requests made by the TMC leaders’ counsels for their release on interim bail.
The CBI then approached the Supreme Court challenging the order allowing house arrest. However, after adverse observations from the Supreme Court, the central agency chose to withdraw its petition from the Supreme Court on May 25.
IANS / AGENCY