The Supreme Court will on Tuesday take up a petition by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, contending that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has made “false allegations” about her sitting in protest outside CBI’s Kolkata office after the arrest of two Trinamool Congress (TMC) ministers and another prominent MLA on May 17 in connection with the 2016 Narada sting tapes. A former party leader was also arrested the same day.
The petition, which will be considered by a bench of justices Hemant Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, claimed that CBI has also tried to mislead the courts by accusing her of trying to pressure the trial judge for granting bail to her ministers and MLAs in its endeavour to get the case transferred from the trial court.
The CM did not deny that she had visited the CBI office in Kolkata on May 17 after the arrest of three TMC MLAs, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim as well as former party leader Sovan Chatterjee. The petition claimed she went there not as a CM but “as a citizen and as a person acquainted with some of accused persons and family of the accused persons”.
“There is no evidence of the petitioner holding a dharna or gherao or siege outside the CBI office and are thus false allegations. The petitioner at no point made a forcible entry at the office of the CBI, rather, she cleared a three-tier system of central paramilitary security, as applicable to all persons entering the CBI office premises…when she was present at the CBI office, she abided by all directions issued by officers of the CBI,” stated her petition, filed through advocate Astha Sharma.
Banerjee has also alleged that the CBI arrested the MLAs without informing the local police station prior to the arrest, and without even informing the Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly and after obtaining sanction “in a manner contrary to law.” The plea added the CBI had no material evidence or documentary proof, photographs or videos to substantiate the bald and vague allegations against her.
The CM has filed the petition to assail the June 9 order of the Calcutta high court, which had refused to accept her affidavit on record while hearing the CBI’s plea for transferring the case from the trial court to itself. The agency has accused the CM and other TMC leaders of carrying out protests after arrests of the MLAS to pressure the trial court and influence the bail hearing.
The MLAs arrests were followed by a series of dramatic events in which the trial court granted them bail soon after their arrests on May 17. It was, however, stayed by a division bench of the Calcutta high court within hours after the CBI filed a petition for transferring the case. Two days later, the two judges on the division bench differed with each other, resulting in a house arrest order for the MLAs till the time a larger bench could decide the matter.
The CBI’s petition was then referred to a five-judge bench, which on June 9 refused to take on record affidavits by Banerjee, state law minister Moloy Ghatak and the West Bengal government, on the ground that the arguments in the case were substantially over and that they could not be allowed file their affidavits to fill the lacuna to support the accused.
Contesting this order, Banerjee has attacked the high court as well. “The high court is perpetuating the illegality by imposing different standards for parties in the same case, in an arbitrary manner, and in utter disregard to the principles of equity and natural justice,” said her plea, adding the order was in disregard to the principles of natural justice.
The CM’s petition further pointed out that the CBI was able to not only get an urgent listing from the high court but also a stay of the bail order on May 17 merely on the basis of an e-mail, without any notice to the concerned parties and to her despite the fact that serious allegations were levelled against her conduct.
The plea also said that the arguments in the case were far from over and were ongoing even as of June 18. “The impugned order thereby attempts to foist the impression that the petitioner filed her affidavit at a belated stage, which prima facie is erroneous,” it said.
Banerjee’s plea will be heard along with petitions filed by Ghatak and the state government against the June 9 order of the high court.