Narada case: Calcutta HC refuses CBI prayer to adjourn matter

KOLKATA: The advocate representing two West Bengal ministers, an MLA and a former mayor of the city in the Narada sting tape case, on Monday told the Calcutta High Court there was no question of them fleeing or tampering with evidence.

Opposing the CBI’s prayer for transfer of the case before a five-judge bench that had earlier granted interim bail to ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted that all of them have their roots in Kolkata.

Singhvi said the test of bail hinges upon factors like chance of fleeing, tampering with evidence and not cooperating with the investigation, and none of these apply to the four leaders.

He submitted that the sting operation in question allegedly happened in 2014, and as such there was no question of tampering with anything after so many years.

He also said that all four of them are well settled in Kolkata and have always cooperated with the investigation.

Singhvi, who cited the Supreme Court judgement on grant of bail in the application of P Chidambaram in the INX Media case, claimed that the CBI was using “mobocracy” as an excuse to question the bail granted to the four accused by the special CBI court.

The CBI had claimed that a mob of 2,000-3,000 people gathered outside its office at Nizam Palace protesting the arrests, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna at the office, on May 17.

Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal asked the counsel what the state’s law minister was doing at Bankshall Court on the day of the arrest of the four leaders, to which Singhvi replied that it showed his faith in the law and support for his colleagues.

The five-judge bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee, adjourned hearing in the matter for the day and said it will resume on Tuesday.

Seeking transfer of the Narada sting tape case from the lower judiciary, the CBI has prayed before the high court that it cancel the proceedings held before the special CBI court. The five-judge bench had on May 28 granted interim bail to all the four accused.

Earlier, they had been placed under house arrest on May 21 at the direction of the high court, which modified its earlier stay on the bail granted to the four leaders by the special CBI court.