Calcutta HC stays bail granted to TMC leaders arrested in the Narada scam

Calcutta HC stays bail granted to TMC leaders arrested in the Narada scam

Background: The Narada scam was a sting operation carried on for two years by Samuel Mathew, the news editor for the magazine called Tehelka. The operation lasted for two years starting from 2014 when a fake company called Impex consultancy solutions was founded by him. Concerning that, he had asked the TMC leaders to grant him illegal favours in return for huge sums of money. The news regarding this had come out in a news journal called Narada news in the year 2016, few months before the Bengal assembly elections. Many important portfolio holders of the ruling party of West Bengal had been caught taking bribes in exchange for undue favours in fifty-two-hour long video footage. Some of the important faces included the former MLA Sovan Chatterjee, minister Madan Mitra, MLA Firhad Hakim, and minister Subrata Mukherjee. The Central Bureau of Investigation had been asked to file charge sheets against the accused by the state governor, Mr Jagdeep Dhankar. The charges filed fell under sections 469: forgery to harm reputation, 500: defamation, 120(B): criminal conspiracy, etc. reputation. On 15th August 2016, the Calcutta High Court issued an order to stay the investigation by the state police observing that a court-monitored probe and the state police investigation cannot be running side by side.

However, after the subsequent arrest, the ministers had started feeling ill. Some complained of chest pain and breathlessness and were soon attended to with medical aid. In the same context, a bail application was filed in the Calcutta High Court by the counsel representing the ministers and MLAs. The same had been granted by the court.

Recent issue: The Special CBI court had granted bail to two of the ministers, Farhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee on 17th May. While the bail application for the rest was being heard in the trial court, the Chief Minister herself along with two thousand to three thousand supporters sat on a dharna before the trial court. A decision has been taken by a division bench consisting of acting chief justice Rajesh Bindal, Justice Arijit Banerjee which stated that the accused would be kept in judicial custody till further orders.

According to the submissions made to the court by Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India, the mob had surrounded the CBI office from where the accused were supposed to be taken to the court by the police. He pleaded that the trial is transferred to a different court if understood to be judicially feasible under section 407 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The basic idea was to ensure that the people understand the importance of protocols in the administration of justice and do not take “mobocracy” to be an efficient extra-judicial means to get their political propagandas satisfied.

However, the Advocate General of the state of West Bengal submitted that there had been no official complaint of inconvenience, registered by the CBI officers as they had been given proper protection by the local police while taking the accused to the court for trial. Moreover, there had not been any proper legal application made by the authority to transfer the case. Hence, the procedural criteria for the application of section 407 are not getting satisfied. However, the court found the plea submitted by the Solicitor General was enough to deal with the issue at once and to take immediate steps to ease the tension as the matter was of due importance in terms of the faith of the people in law and order of the state. The court observed that any order issued by the judiciary will not be of due importance to the people if the decision is in any way influenced by such a powerful mob led by the chief minister of the state herself. the involvement of the law minister of the state as well as another point of contention. The faith of the people in the judicial system of the country and the need for them to abide by the due process of law is the urgent need of the hour. It is also of perilous importance that the ministers or the members of the legislative assembly of the state help the judiciary in carrying out its functions in an efficient manner. Therefore, the decision to stay the bail order and to keep the accused in proper medically facilitated custody under the jail manual has been taken to be a prudent decision.

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