The CBI Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to the West Bengal government and the state police to cooperate in the Saradha chit fund case investigation. The West Bengal police Sunday had detained a team of CBI officials who had gone to commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s official residence to question him in the case.
Protesting against the CBI action, chief minister Mamata Banerjee launched an indefinite ‘Save the Constitution’ sit-in Sunday night.
ThePrint asks: Is CBI overstepping in West Bengal or Mamata Banerjee politicising due process?
This was a surgical strike on the federal nature of the Indian Constitution
It is evident that the CBI overstepped in this case. The agency officials weren’t right in showing up at the police commissioner’s home as they had neither informed the state government, nor sought the court’s permission. The agency has now moved the Supreme Court. Why didn’t it do this in advance?
The plan was never to simply interrogate Rajeev Kumar but to arrest him, otherwise they wouldn’t have landed up at his place in large numbers.
The Saradha chit fund case has been going on for many years now. The CBI is quite obviously not serious about investigating it, otherwise it would have showed up sooner and not a few weeks before the Lok Sabha elections.
This was a politically motivated attack, a surgical strike on the federal nature of the Constitution. From time to time, the CBI attacks Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and other opponents of the Modi government. The central agency is indeed a caged parrot, completely operated by Narendra Modi. But we will not allow this to continue to happen. I cannot anticipate what the court will say, but we have utmost respect for the country’s highest court.
Fundamentally, this is a Centre-state question, and Mamata Banerjee has the courage and the gumption to take on these central authorities.
Mamata protecting commissioner because perhaps he knows something she can’t let people know
State executive member, West Bengal BJP
The CBI had been sending notices to police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before it for its investigation into the Saradha chit fund scam.
After waiting for over a year, the CBI officers tried to visit the commissioner’s residence yesterday (February 3). No warrant is needed under specific provisions of the law. The Kolkata police has, under the same commissioner and using the same provisions, raided residences of several people, including politicians.
The central agency has been alleging that Kumar may destroy several documents and electronic evidence.
But chief minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to sit on a dharna. Perhaps, there is something the commissioner knows that she can’t afford the public to know, and hence she is protecting him, because she didn’t do anything other than hold a perfunctory protest when Madan Mitra, a minister in her government, was arrested by the CBI. Several other leaders of her party, including Sudeep Bandopadhyay, Tapas Pal and Kunal Ghosh, have been arrested. Her political leaders are clearly not as important to her.
Most of the leaders who have called her to show support seem to be under the CBI scanner themselves. As they say, birds of a feather flock together.
CBI notice to Rajeev Kumar was to appear as a witness, and not as an accused
In October, the Delhi Police had swarmed the CBI headquarters in the middle of the night and sealed it for two hours. M Nageshwar Rao was brought in to replace Alok Verma as the CBI director amid tight security. The fate of documents containing evidence and files of important cases is not known.
The role of the NSA and a RAW officer came to light but the might of the Modi government silenced everyone who could expose its dirty secrets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had both threatened to arrest Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar. Within 48 hours, the CBI was at Kumar’s residence without any authorisation despite the fact that Kumar had offered to meet them at his office. The fact that the notice issued to him was under section 160 of the CrPC, which seeks the attendance of a witness and not an accused, is also getting buried in the noise of TV debates.
The credibility of agencies under this government is at its lowest, and that of the PMO and NSA even worse. After the CBI failed to file an appeal in Judge Loya and Sohrabuddin cases, and closed Ramdev’s case, it was the PMO’s responsibility to first restore its credibility and then expect the state governments to cooperate.
By trying to enter commissioner’s house without court order, CBI officers played into Mamata’s hands
Member, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group
While the CBI may have overstepped by trying to enter the Kolkata police commissioner’s official residence without notice, Mamata Banerjee is guilty of serious violation of her constitutional obligations as chief minister of West Bengal.
Knowing the Bengal government’s declared stance of non-cooperation with central investigating agencies, the CBI could have been more circumspect. Mamata had earlier publicly announced that no one from her party would go to the CBI office if they were called. West Bengal had withdrawn ‘general consent’ given to the CBI to investigate cases in the state.
Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar was definitely evading the CBI officers for the last few weeks. They could have reported it to the Supreme Court and obtained an order to interrogate him. By trying to enter his residence without armed with a court order, the CBI officers played into the hands of Mamata. She did not miss the opportunity to turn it into an attack by the Centre on the federal structure.
But the manner in which she unleashed the state police force against the CBI officers, forcibly detaining them and releasing them later, indicates a sort of panic in the TMC leadership.
This wouldn’t have happened had the CBI not landed at the commissioner’s home in the manner it did
Former CBI director
The manner in which things panned out on Sunday was highly unfortunate. This was completely avoidable if only the CBI had acted more tactfully.
There is no contestation about the fact that the CBI doesn’t need a warrant to conduct its investigations. In that, the agency is within its rights. However, having power is one thing and using that power prudently is another.
The CBI claims that police commissioner Rajeev Kumar was sent two notices, but he didn’t appear. But I still believe the central agency could have dealt with this differently.
The CBI officials didn’t need to go to his home on a Sunday evening. Knowing the atmosphere in Kolkata, a certain sensitivity from the CBI’s end would have been good.
If the commissioner had refused to cooperate, the CBI could have gone to the Supreme Court, which would have directed him to cooperate. This would have been a more astute way of approaching this matter.
The CBI officials were only performing their duty. It was a court-monitored investigation and they did what was required. The way they were hoarded in police vans was also inappropriate.
The whole situation was avoidable if the CBI officials hadn’t landed at the commissioner’s home in the manner that they did.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.
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