Soon after the Supreme Court directed the Kolkata Police Commissioner to cooperate with the CBI in the Saradha chit fund scam probe, the Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the Bengal government asking it to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Kolkata top cop. In a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary, West Bengal, the MHA cited indisciplined behaviour and violation of All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968/AIS (D&A) Rules, 1969 by the officer. Taking a swipe at Banerjee after she claimed a moral victory following the court’s order, BJP leader Smriti Irani said the West Bengal chief minister has been left with egg on her face. “With egg on her face, to celebrate it as a moral victory is a dichotomy available only to Mamata Banerjee’s realm of politics,” the BJP leader told reporters. The order should be a matter of introspection and concern for her, she added.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has handed out a letter written by Saradha chit fund chief Sudipto Sen in 2013, in which an allegation against former TMC leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who switched over to the BJP when the CBI probe picked up steam, has been highlighted as part of a counter-offensive against the saffron party. Sen’s letter states that Sarma had “dramatically cheated” him and taken not less than Rs 3 crore from him over a period of one and half years.
The attack came after the Supreme Court earlier on Tuesday directed Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI but ruled that no coercive action, including arrest, can be taken against him for now, prompting both West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the Centre to call it a “moral victory”. Saying that she was grateful to the SC, Mamata claimed that Rajeev Kumar never said he was not available and the two parties should meet at a mutually agreed place. She said Kumar had written five letters to the CBI, saying that he was available for a meeting. “But what they started doing? They went to his house to arrest him. The court has said no arrest.”
The investigative agency filed additional documents in the court to back up its claim that he had destroyed evidence related to the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams. In the documents, the CBI states that the role of Kolkata’s police chief was being investigated as the Special Investigation Team formed to probe the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams had protected these companies as they had made contributions to the Trinamool Congress.
Arguing on behalf of the CBI, attorney general KK Venugopal says that contributions made to TMC by the chit fund firms were made via cheques. The A-G has sought permission to furnish the documentary evidence against the Kolkata police chief in a sealed cover. Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for West Bengal, said the CBI’s attempt to search the top cop’s home was is a bid to harass and humiliate him. “There’s no FIR against Rajeev Kumar. He received three notices in last four years. After 23/10/17, he was sent a notice only on 4/12/18,” he told the court.
But the CJI, rejecting his arguments, said there should be no problem in the police chief appearing before the CBI for questioning. The court posted the matter for February 20, when the contempt plea against the West Bengal’s chief secretary, DGP and the Kolkata top cop will also be taken up.
The SIT referenced in the CBI documents was headed by police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, for whom West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has gone on a dharna. The documents, filed before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, allege a nexus between the police and the chit fund firms. CJI Ranjan Gogoi had warned on Monday the court “will come down heavily on him (Kolkata police commissioner) if there’s any material to show evidence is sought to be destroyed.”
Meanwhile, union minister Arun Jaitley has slammed West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her “disproportionate” response to CBI’s action against Kolkata’s police commissioner and claimed it was a strategy to defocus from other opposition aspirants for the highest office and to project herself as the nucleus of India’s opposition. Calling the opposition a “Kleptocrat’s Club”, he said in a scathing blog post that all those in Opposition who aspire to be in power are today being investigated, prosecuted and in some cases have also been convicted for crimes of corruption.
The full-blown political stand-off between Mamata Banerjee and the central government continues , with the chief minister refusing to budge from her sit-in protest in the heart of Kolkata.
The issue has pitched Banerjee to the forefront of a united opposition, whose leaders tore into the central government have takeb on the government on the floor of parliament and outside. Virtually all opposition parties rallied behind Banerjee’s direct confrontation with the Modi government, even as the BJP called it an “alliance of corrupt” and Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament that developments in West Bengal were indicative of a “breakdown of the Constitution”.
Trinamool workers took to streets burning effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah and blocked trains, while the BJP lined up its top leaders to step up the counter-offensive against Banerjee and other opposition leaders. The ripple effect of political tremors in West Bengal were felt in several state capitals, as Banerjee’s combative posturing on the issue drew support from several regional satraps trying to sew up an anti-BJP alliance ahead of Lok Sabha polls, expected in April-May.
Refusing to budge, Banerjee held her Cabinet meeting at the protest site and also gave police gallantry awards there. “This is a satyagraha and I’ll continue (it) till the country is saved… Constitution is saved,” the firebrand TMC boss said at the protest site. Rajnath Singh also sought a report from Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi which was promptly sent by Raj Bhavan. “I do not have any grudge against any individual. But I am angry over the way institutions are being destroyed and misused,” Banerjee told the gathering at the protest venue.
She said it was her government that arrested Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen and claimed Rs 250-300 crore was returned to the duped depositors. The alleged ponzi scams at Saradha and Rose Valley groups are at the centre of what has become a major political controversy now, as the BJP leaders have alleged that the ruling party leaders in West Bengal have been among major beneficiaries of fraudulent collection of money.
Allegedly, these schemes were being run without necessary regulatory approvals and collected nearly Rs 20,000 crore from lakhs of investors in West Bengal and neighbouring states, through what is commonly known as ‘chit funds’. “Today you are labelling those who helped arrest the culprits as thieves. You are calling Rajeev Kumar (Kolkata Police Commissioner) a thief! Whose money has he taken? You are calling me a thief! Whose money have I taken? If you are labelling people who are honest as thieves without any evidence, then I will definitely stand by their side. And for that if I need to give up my life, then I am ready to do that but I will not compromise,” she asserted.
Claiming that the CBI team had knocked on Kumar’s door without a warrant, Banerjee said, “I have fought all through my life but never given up. I am ready to face any consequences.” The failed attempt by the CBI to question Kumar in connection with the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams on Sunday became the latest flashpoint between the BJP-led Centre and Banerjee, one of its bitter critics. The CBI has accused Kumar of destroying evidence related to the two fraud cases.
A CBI team was bodily prevented from entering Kumar’s residence by police personnel, bundled into vehicles, and detained. Police contingents also descended on CBI premises in Kolkata, as a furious Banerjee rushed to Kumar’s residence before beginning a dharna opposite landmark Metro Cinema.
Catch the Biggest Newsmakers and the Biggest Newsbreaks on CNN-News18, your favourite English TV news channel. Keep watching CNN-News18 at just 50 Paise per Month. Contact your cable /DTH operator Now!
*Rental / capacity fee of Rs.130/- as charged by cable / DTH operator may apply. **GST extra.