New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a First Information Report against the Kolkata Police, accusing it of “forgery and fabrication of a court order”, documents accessed by ThePrint have revealed.
ED officials, in FIR 48 of 2022, registered on 20 April with the Delhi Police, have claimed that a court order was tampered with, in a bid to make Joint Director Kapil Raj provide a voice sample without his consent. The Kolkata Police are yet to comment on the allegation, but a source blamed a “clerical error” by a court official, which he said had been resolved.
A Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Alipore had, last month, asked Raj to appear before the Kolkata Police and provide a voice sample to investigators, with his consent. ED officials claim that the text of the order, provided to the central agency by the Kolkata Police, deleted the reference to consent — a ruse, they allege, to compel Raj to comply with their wishes.
The allegation and the FIR are part of an escalating battle between West Bengal’s police and central government law enforcement agencies, sparked off by an investigation into illegal mining operations allegedly involving Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool Congress MP from Diamond Harbour, Abhishek Banerjee. Abhishek, also the party’s national general secretary, is accused of having received payoffs from illegal mine operators.
ED Joint Director Kapil Raj declined to comment on the issue when approached through phone calls by ThePrint. Kolkata Police’s Joint Commissioner (Crime) Murlidhar Sharma did not respond to ThePrint’s requests for comments.
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Summons vs summons
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had begun probing the coal mining case in November 2020, when Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) filed an FIR saying there had been “extensive illegal mining and transportation of coal” from leased lands in Paschim Bardhaman district. ED investigators later joined the probe to trace the money trail.
Since 2021, Abhishek Banerjee has been summoned by the ED seven times, but he has appeared twice. Rujira Banerjee, meanwhile, was summoned four times, but is yet to join the investigation, said sources in the ED.
Then, in April 2021, a national television channel broadcast an audiotape of a purported conversation between a Kolkata-based businessman and an ED officer, which named Abhishek as a recipient of payoffs.
Abhishek registered a complaint with the Kolkata Police on 5 April 2021, claiming that the television channel and the ED had conspired to defame him.
ED officers were issued notices to appear before the Kolkata Police at least thrice to record evidence in this case, against which the central agency moved court. In December, the Delhi High Court stayed all notices issued by the Kolkata Police.
Then, in March 2022, Abhishek and his wife Rujira were issued notices to appear before the ED. The Kolkata Police responded with notices to ED, to appear before its officer who is investigating the defamation case. The legal validity of these notices has been challenged in court.
Escalating ED-Kolkata Police war
Enforcement Directorate officials, documents accessed by ThePrint show, claim to have evidence of a “nexus between certain politically exposed persons and senior police officers” of West Bengal.
The ED claims that the notices by the Kolkata Police appear to be “counterblast to the issuance of summons to Abhishek Banerjee and Rujira Banerjee”, and are intended to undermine its ongoing investigation into money laundering allegations.
Abhishek Banerjee has previously called the investigation and summonses against him as “political vendetta”, and questioned the ED’s neutrality after appearing before the directorate.
The ED-Kolkata Police battle mirrors the larger political war between the governments of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
In 2019, the CBI and Kolkata Police had filed similar counter-cases against each other, after the central agency sought the appearance of former police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha ponzi scam.
Kolkata Police lodged criminal complaints against Pankaj Srivastav, joint director of the CBI, who was in charge of the investigation then.
Commissioner Kumar appeared twice in response to at least half-a-dozen notices sent to him by the CBI from October 2017 on — first, a Supreme Court-mandated appearance in Shillong in February 2019, and then in Kolkata on 7 June the same year.
The CBI later sought the top court’s approval for custodial interrogation of Kumar, alleging he was “arrogant and non-cooperative” in Shillong.
In February 2019, CBI officials had surrounded the police commissioner’s residence, leading to a clash with police stationed at the venue. Police also surrounded the home of the CBI’s joint director in Kolkata, Pankaj Srivastav.
Rajeev Kumar is now posted as principal secretary for information technology in Bengal, while the investigation into the case is still ongoing.
On her part, CM Mamata Banerjee has alleged that the central government, through its agencies and “muscle power”, is heckling Trinamool Congress and misusing its power.
“Using the central agencies and muscle power, Trinamool Congress was heckled by the ruling BJP during the Assembly polls. After the by-poll date was announced, the BJP government is again heckling the Trinamool leaders and ministers misusing the agencies. Just because they want to target me, Abhishek Banerjee is being called by the ED. After quizzing him for 9 hours, he is being called again the next day and that shows their intent,” Mamata had said in September 2021.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
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