The Supreme Court of India Tuesday issued a notice to the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, following a contempt plea filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleging “total breakdown of Constitutional machinery” after their officials were detained by the Kolkata police. The Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was directed by the top court to make an appearance before the agency in Shillong in connection with his alleged involvement in the chit fund scam cases.
The CBI was restrained by the court to initiate any coercive action against the officer or arresting him. “Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we direct Shri Rajeev Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to appear and make himself available before the investigating agency, namely, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and to faithfully cooperate with the investigating agency at all times. However, we make it clear that no coercive steps, including arrest, shall be taken against the Commissioner of Police. To avoid all unnecessary controversy, we direct the Commissioner of Police to appear before the investigating agency in Shillong, Meghalaya on such date(s) as may be fixed”, the bench, comprising of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna ordered.
The court asked WB Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and Kumar to file their replies to the CBI’s allegations by April 18 and suggested that their presence “may” be required at the next date of hearing, which would be decided after going through their replies.
“We further make it clear that on consideration of the replies of the aforesaid three authorities, the Court may require the personal presence of the said officers on 20.2.2019, which presence, if required, would be intimated to the officers concerned by the Secretary General of this Court on 19.2.2019,” the order stated.
Attorney General of India K K Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the CBI, harshly criticized the actions of the state police which he said had “attacked” the CBI officials who were acting in pursuance of the apex court’s orders.
“The state is prepared to attack the police force of Centre… means total breakdown of Constitutional machinery,” the AG said, urging the court to issue contempt notice. He said that the CBI had taken over the investigation into the chit fund cases from the SIT in 2016 following the apex court’s order. Consequently, the SIT handed over the case materials to the agency which however had doubts that some of these were “doctored”, the AG said.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said that the DGP was the head of the SIT which probed the chit fund cases, including the multi-crore Saradha and Rose Valley scams, before they were transferred by the SC to the CBI on May 9, 2014, but Kumar was in charge of its day-to-day functions.
“We had some doubts on documentation that was handed over,” the AG told the bench, explaining why it had decided to summon Kumar.
The AG said the SIT had returned the cell phone of Sudipto Sen (main accused in Saradha scam) to him and call records supplied to CBI were not complete. The laptop and cell phone were not sent for forensic examination to recover data, he said adding, “doctored call records were given to us”.
Venugopal alleged that “there was a serious omission or wilful commission” on the part of the IPS officer. CJI Gogoi replied that Kumar should not have any difficulty cooperating with the probe and the court would issue notice on the contempt plea.
The AG replied that the contempt charge was far more serious. CJI Gogoi remarked that “we will have to examine that, will have to issue notice and hear the other side”.
A team of CBI officials on Sunday who had arrived at Kolkata Police Commissioner’s residence, Rajeev Kumar to investigate him regarding the chit fund case, were denied permission and were briefly detained by the police.
Following the news, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, alleging a coup against her government, started an indefinite dharna. During her address toward the reporters, she criticized Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, stating that there was a constitutional breakdown occurring under Modi’s rule.
The NIA, after a sting operation “Operation: Villains of the Valley-The Hurriyat Tapes” by the India Today on May 16, 2017, started investigating upon and questioning the accused leaders and some prime suspects. The questioning of the suspects continues, ‘despite their deteriorating health and lack of evidence against them’.
Eight Kashmiris were arrested, booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 and alleged money laundering offences by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED). They were sent to Tihar. There are eight jails in Tihar and each jail has two wards: General and High Risk. The most dangerous/ notorious criminals get placed in the High-risk ward. It’s where the Kashmiri inmates have been imprisoned. Among the other criminals there, Kashmiris never felt safe and had written a letter to DG Prisons on April 30th 2018 requesting him to keep them separate from other inmates.
(With inputs from Indian Express)