A larger bench of the Calcutta High Court will take up the case involving the arrests in the Narada bribery case on Monday after all four Bengal politicians – including two ministers – were sent to house arrest after two judges of the division bench could not agree on interim bail for them.
Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and Justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee will comprise the bench which will take up the Narada scandal related case at 11 am.
Earlier in the day, after a courtroom drama to rival the best on the silver screen, two of Mamata Banerjee’s senior ministers and two other political heavyweights, arrested and jailed in the Narada bribery case, were put under house arrest.
Rejecting the CBI’s plea against the house arrest order, the court also allowed the ministers to access files and hold video conferences to deal with the coronavirus crisis in the state.
The order was passed after a difference of opinion split the two-member bench – Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ordered house arrest but Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered interim bail.
Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee – also named by the CBI in the case – had requested for the higher bench to be set up.
The court also rejected a CBI request to stay its house arrest order – which will mean the four can now leave jail. The agency had argued the four were influential leaders and could threaten witnesses.
Sources, however, said the CBI can challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
Lawyers for the CBI and the four politicians both opposed the house arrest orders during the day’s hearing.
Appearing for the central agency Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the court to stay its order and keep the four leaders in custody; he said they could threaten witnesses and the system.
The agency wants all proceedings to be transferred out of state and to itself – a special CBI court.
Senior advocates Abhishek Singhvi and Sidharth Luthra pressed for an interim bail for their clients and asked the larger bench be constituted as soon as possible. They argued house arrest, which they said was ordered mid-way through the hearing, meant their plea was rejected.
The four politicians – Mr Hakim, Mr Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Trinamool member Sovan Chatterjee – were arrested Monday morning from their residences in the city.
The arrests led to massive protests and a furious Mamata Banerjee, who has been made a party to the case raced to the CBI’s Kolkata office, daring investigators to arrest her too.
The Trinamool has questioned the timing of these arrests, which come days after Ms Banerjee’s victory in April-May elections that devolved into a battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party has also questioned the decision to not prosecute Suvendu Adhikari – an ex-Trinamool member who is now a BJP MLA – and Mukul Roy – another ex-party leader now with the BJP.
The Narada case involves a 2014 sting op by a journalist who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as a bribe and taped the entire exchange.
The tapes were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.