Narada graft case: Calcutta HC stays interim bail for Trinamool leaders

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 18, 2021

They will be in judicial custody; the case comes up for hearing tomorrow

In a dramatic turn of events, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court stayed the interim bail granted to two arrested Trinamool Congress ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee; former minister Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee.

The four will be in judicial custody and the case will come up for hearing on May 19 (Wednesday).

Arrested in an early morning operation by the CBI in connection with the Narada bribery case, the four had obtained an interim bail from the special court.

However, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court headed by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee stayed the interim bail granted to the accused on the grounds that “the manner in which pressure was sought to be put will not inspire confidence of the people in the rule of law.”

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“We are not touching the merits of the controversy but the manner in which pressure was sought to be put will not inspire confidence of the people in the rule of law. As during the period when the arguments were heard, the order was passed by the Court below, we deem it appropriate to stay that order and direct that the accused person shall be treated to be in judicial custody till further orders,” the division bench order stated.

Pressure tactics

The division bench in its order said the facts “which are not in dispute” include that a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act was registered against many accused, including some of the Ministers in the present State government on the directions issued by the Calcutta High Court.

It further noted that “immediately after their arrest, the mob started collecting outside the CBI office”. At around 10.50 am the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, “sat on dharna in the office of CBI”.

“It is claimed by Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India that she was demanding their unconditional release but the fact that she was present there and some supporters were also there, was not denied by learned Advocate General (of the state),” the order said.

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In addition, the Law Minister of the State (Malay Ghatak) “along with supporters mobbed the Court where the accused were to be presented along with charge sheet”. The state Law Minister remained in the Court complex throughout the day till the arguments were heard.

“In these facts and circumstances if any order is passed by the Court the same will not have faith and confidence of the people in the system of administration of justice.”

Stating that the “confidence of the people in the justice system will be eroded” if such incidents are allowed to happen “where political leaders are arrested and are to be produced in the Court” and that “public trust and confidence in the judicial system is more important”, the division bench said: “They may have a feeling that it is not rule of law which prevails but it is a mob which has an upper hand and especially in a case where it is led by the Chief Minister of the State in the office of CBI and by the Law Minister of the State in the Court Complex.”

The four accused were taken to the Presidency Jail late Monday night.

Day of high drama

The arrests sparked off high drama all through the day on Monday. TMC supporters gathered outside the CBI office, brickbatted the central forces, tried to enter the office forcefully and protested throughout, raising slogans and burning effigies.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too rushed into the CBI office in Kolkata where she held a “sit-in” for over six hours.

Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, during the course of the hearing said that although the accused were to be produced in court, “the CBI office from where the accused were to be taken to the court was gheraoed by the political supporters of the persons in custody”. The crowd was 2,000 to 3,000. “Stone pelting was resorted to. Some of the supporters even entered the office of CBI and manhandled the staff present there.”

Advocate General (Kishore Dutta), submitted that he does not have any direct information about any order passed by the Court where the accused were produced. However, the media reports that bail has been granted. He further referred to the provisions of the law which provide that for grant or extension of police remand, the accused have to be present in person in the Court, whereas for judicial remand, it can be virtual.

Published on May 18, 2021

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