Bengal Governor Sanctions Prosecution Of Trinamool Seniors, But CBI Must Move Swiftly Against Them Now
This prosecution relates to a bribes-for-favours sting operation conducted by a Tehelka journalist in 2014.
The CBI should mount a strong legal defence and argue for the maximum possible sentence against the accused, if it wants its reputation to be protected, else, it would only be perceived as a Central government ‘witch-hunt’ against the Trinamool.
The sanction to prosecute the four — Firad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee (who left the Trinamool and joined the BJP, but has dissociated himself from the BJP also) — will surely anger state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and trigger allegations of ‘witch hunt’ and ‘political vendetta’.
The Governor tweeted on Sunday evening refuting media reports that three of the four against whom the nod to prosecute were MLAs at the time the sting operation was carried out.
The implication was that Dhankar exceeded his powers by sanctioning prosecution of MLAs when only the Assembly Speaker is empowered to do so.
The Governor clarified that all the four were ministers at the time of the sting operation and he (the Governor) being the appointing authority of the ministers, has the power to sanction their prosecution as well.
The sting operation was conducted by Mathew Samuel in 2014 (the tapes were released before the state Assembly elections in 2016), a former managing editor of Tehelka.
Samuel posed as a senior executive of a Chennai-based company which was looking for business opportunities in Bengal.
In the tapes, a host of top Trinamool leaders were seen accepting bribes for helping the company.
Apart from the four whose prosecution was sanctioned by the Governor, others who featured in the sting operation were Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari (both with the BJP now), former Kolkata Municipal Corporation deputy mayor Iqbal Ahmed, Trinamool MPs Aparupa Poddar, Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee and Sultan Ahmed (he passed away in 2017), former minister Madan Mitra, and Sujay Bhadra and Karan Sharma (close aides of Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek).
The recipients initially disputed the contents of the tapes and said they were impersonated, but after the Central Forensic Laboratory confirmed their authenticity, the Trinamool leaders said that they had taken the money for charitable purposes and for the party’s coffers.
The state government initiated a probe by the Kolkata Police, which allegedly targeted Samuel and lodged cases against him. The Calcutta High Court quashed the police probe and asked the CBI to investigate in the face of vehement objections by the state government.
The Supreme Court upheld the High Court order. The CBI filed the FIR against a dozen-odd Trinamool leaders in April 2017 and, since then, has summoned and interrogated them.
But like the CBI probes into the Saradha and other chit fund scams, the investigations into the Narada operation have dragged on for four years.
This long delay has given heft to Mamata Banerjee’s contention that the CBI is being misused by the Union Government to conduct a witch-hunt against the Trinamool.
It is, thus, imperative that the CBI now proceeds swiftly and files strong chargesheets against the four accused.
The CBI should also mount a strong legal defence and argue for the maximum possible sentence against the accused. It is also crucial for the CBI to ensure that the court convicts the accused on the basis of its chargesheet.
All this is necessary to not only restore faith in the CBI, but also to puncture Mamata Banerjee’s charge that the probes by central agencies into various scams and misdeeds of Trinamool leaders are politically-motivated.
Conducting quick and time-bound investigations, filing strong and foolproof chargesheets that pass judicial scrutiny and ensuring conviction of the accused is very important for the CBI to negate the perception that it is being used by the Union Government to conduct a witch-hunt against the BJP’s political opponents.
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