Kolkata: At least 18 months and five reminders later, the CBI is yet to receive approval from the Lok Sabha Speaker to prosecute three Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs and a former party parliamentarian accused in the Narada sting operation and bribery scam.
The sting operation, conducted by Narada News, purportedly showed Trinamool Congress leaders, MPs and cabinet ministers accepting bribes. It hit the headlines before the 2016 assembly elections in Bengal.
The CBI had taken over the case in 2017 and had sought permission from the Lok Sabha Speaker to prosecute three MPs — Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Sougata Roy and Prasun Banerjee — and former MP Subhendu Adhikari in April 2019.
The agency is yet to receive the Speaker’s assent.
“We had requested for prosecution approval from the Lok Sabha speaker for four MPs in April 2019. In the past 18 months, we have sent at least four to five reminders to the Lok Sabha requesting the necessary approval,” a senior CBI official told The Print.
“We have informed the Calcutta High Court about the delay. We will not be able to file the charge sheet without LS approval,” he said. “The approval for the accused IPS officer (S.M.H. Mirza) is also pending with the central government.”
ThePrint reached the Lok Sabha Speaker’s office Friday and Monday through calls and texts seeking a response. ThePrint also contacted the office of the secretary general of the Lok Sabha on Friday and Monday through calls and emails for a comment. But no response was received till the time of publishing this report.
ThePrint reached the CBI spokesperson in Delhi through calls and mail on Monday and Tuesday but is yet to receive a response.
Meanwhile, the ethics committee formed under the chairmanship of L.K. Advani to probe the alleged involvement of the accused MPs did not even meet once in the last four years.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), both central government agencies, are ready with their probe reports and charge sheets, ThePrint has learnt.
Narada scam and the investigation
The scam broke in 2016, before the assembly elections, when a website called Narada News purportedly showed Trinamool Congress leaders, MPs and cabinet ministers accepting bribes. S.M.H. Mirza, a serving IPS officer of the West Bengal cadre, is also an accused in the case .
A year later, the Calcutta High Court in March 2017 directed the CBI to investigate the case. The CBI registered an FIR in the case and named 13 accused, of whom nine are top Trinamool leaders apart from a senior IPS officer.
A senior ED official said the agency also probed and prepared a detailed report on the money trail of some senior Trinamool leaders.
“We have traced the money trail of some senior Trinamool leaders. But we cannot file a charge sheet until the Lok Sabha gives permission to the CBI,” the official said.
According to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018, investigating agencies require the Lok Sabha Speaker’s approval for prosecuting sitting and former MPs.
Delay due to politics of poaching: Congress
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the West Bengal Congress president, said the BJP is “deliberately” delaying the corruption case.
“This is an unholy nexus. The probe agencies are ready with evidence but they are not getting permission from the government despite the PM and HM speaking several times on the Narada scam,” Chowdhury said.
Two of the accused — former union minister Mukul Roy and former state minister Sovan Chatterjee — have since joined the BJP from the TMC.
The state BJP, however, insists that action will be taken.
“We raised this issue in Parliament. We will again appeal to the central government about this,” said Dilip Ghosh, the BJP’s state president.
Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP’s national general secretary and West Bengal incharge, said, “I will ask our MPs to meet the Lok Sabha speaker and discuss the reasons behind this delay.”