Narada Bribery Case: 2 West Bengal ministers to seek bail again | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 19, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:38 AM, May 19, 2021

Narada Bribery Case: 2 West Bengal ministers to seek bail again

A day after their arrest in the Narada bribery case, two senior ministers of West Bengal and a Trinamool Congress leader are set to appeal the Calcutta High Court's stay on their bail granted by a court in Kolkata.

The counsel appearing for ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC legislator Madan Mitra and ex-Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee told reporters in Kolkata yesterday that they mentioned the matter before a two-member division bench of the High Court, comprising acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee.

The Narada case will come up for hearing before the bench today when India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which arrested ministers Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee is expected to move the High Court to shift the trial in the case outside Bengal.

Mamata's six-hour sit-in protest at the CBI office at Nizam Palace after the arrests, TMC activists hurling stones at the office and taking to street protests in several parts of Bengal yesterday was disapproved by the High Court, which stayed the bail granted by Bankshall court in Kolkata to the four arrested politicians.

In its eight-page order late on Monday evening, the HC bench observed that "confidence of the people in the justice system would be eroded if such incidents are allowed to happen in matters where political leaders are arrested and are to be produced in court".

"Public trust and confidence in the judicial system is more important. They [people] may feel that it is not the rule of law that prevails but a mob has an upper hand, especially where it is led by the CM in the CBI office and by the Law Minister [of West Bengal] in the court," read the order.

The bench said it was "not touching the merits of the controversy but the manner in which pressure was sought to be put".

The High Court made the observations while staying the bail granted by a trial court in Kolkata on Monday, hours after the four politicians were arrested.

Five ministers of Mamata's cabinet, including the law minister, were reportedly present in the court on Monday.

Opposing the bail granted to the four politicians, CBI contended before the High Court that their judicial custody was necessary because they are "influential" persons who could "tamper with evidence and influence" witnesses.

Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and ex-TMC leader Sovan Chatterjee were caught on camera accepting money in a sting operation by news portal Narada in 2014. The video tapes were released before the assembly polls in 2016.

The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the case in 2017 and the probe agency filed a chargesheet against Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra, Chatterjee and a former police officer, SMH Mirza who was arrested earlier and is now out on bail.

Mamata had staged a sit-in protest in Esplanade area of Kolkata in 2019 to protest against CBI's move to question the then Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam case.

Meanwhile, Mitra, Chatterjee and Mukherjee were admitted to the VIP Woodburn Ward of state-run Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital in Kolkata yesterday after they complained of ill health.

Mitra complained of breathlessness and was given oxygen support for a while immediately after his admission to the hospital and again later yesterday. The condition of Mitra, who tested positive for Covid-19 a month ago, was stated to be stable.

Subrata Mukherjee too was admitted to the hospital after complaining of difficulty in breathing.

Firhad Hakim, Transport and Housing Minister, has been in Presidency Jail since Monday. 

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