Kolkata, India: Violent situations almost reminiscent of civil riots erupted in the streets of West Bengal capital Kolkata on Monday, as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested some current and former heavyweight politicians of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC party over the Narada bribery case.
On Monday, ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay were arrested in the Narada bribery case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
They were all picked up from their homes in Kolkata.
Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, who were among the Trinamool leaders allegedly caught taking bribes, have since joined the BJP.
Both were Trinamool parliamentarians when the crime was committed but their prosecution was never sanctioned. They are now BJP MLAs after contesting the state election.
A team of CBI accompanied by central forces pick up Bengal minister Firhad Hakim from his Kolkata residence this morning. Hakim claimed he had been arrested in connection to Narada case pic.twitter.com/kreUZjGzlW
— Indrajit | ইন্দ্রজিৎ – কলকাতা (@iindrojit) May 17, 2021
After Mamata Banerjee won a third term, the Governor swore in Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee as members of her new cabinet.
The move comes only days after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar granted the CBI permission to file a chargesheet against the four defendants and sanctioned their prosecution.
According to reports, tapes were released ahead of the 2016 state Assembly polls alleging the bribery. The Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation in March 2017.
A visibly furious Mamata Banerjee at her 45 minutes in the CBI headquarters in Nizam Palace, Monday, reportedly declared, “the way they were detained without appropriate procedure, CBI will have to arrest me as well.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives at the CBI office pic.twitter.com/FM2B1zaeWL
— ANI (@ANI) May 17, 2021
“As a lawyer, I can say that this is illegal. One needs to take consent from the Speaker of the state Assembly before arresting an MLA. The CBI only has consent from the Governor,” said Biman Bandopadhyay, lawyer and Speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, NDTV reported.
However, a CBI court headed by judge Anupam Mukherjee granted bail to Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra, and former minister Sovan Chatterjee after hearing their lawyers and the counsel for the agency, PTI reported.
Special CBI court judge Anupam Mukherjee granted bail to senior ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former minister Sovan Chatterjee after hearing their lawyers and the counsel for the agency [PTI]@AITCofficial
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) May 17, 2021
The arrest came amid a sweeping lockdown announced in Bengal amid burgeoning COVID-19 cases in the state. Oppositions and critics have questioned the arrest that came at a time when movement is restricted.
At around 1:22 PM, the main gates of the CBI office in Kolkata’s AJC Bose Road were closed as a massive crowd gathered in the front of the building. Central forces were seen deployed inside the CBI campus and outside the main gate.
On-site footages and local media coverage showed TMC supporters pelting stones at the CBI headquarters while protesting the detention of the four Bengal ministers causing a disturbance in the heart of Kolkata.
The state capital and Eastern India’s financial hub entered into a blanket lockdown after CM Mamata Banerjee announced the same earlier last weekend.
Invited attention of CM Mamata Banerjee–on channels and in the public domain, I notice arson & pelting of stones at the CBI office. Pathetic that Kolkata Police & West Bengal Police are just onlookers. Appeal to you to act and restore law and order: WB Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar pic.twitter.com/qhpXbYGmrV
— ANI (@ANI) May 17, 2021
Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted, “Concerned at alarming situation. Call upon Mamata Banerjee to follow constitutional norms & rule of law.
Police must take all steps to maintain law & order. Sad- situation is being allowed to drift with no tangible action by authorities.”
By 2:55 PM the violence outside the governor’s office in Kolkata was bought under control, where hours ago police clashed with protestors.
What is the Narada case?
In 2014, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay were arrested for allegedly accepting lakhs of rupees in bribes from a businessman.
The businessman, a journalist from Delhi, arrived in Kolkata posing to invest in the state reportedly handed wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA, and a police officer as a bribe and taped the entire operation.
The infamous “Narada tapes” were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.