Setting the stage for another bitter showdown between the Centre and the ruling party in West Bengal, the CBI Monday booked 12 Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including MPs and state ministers, an IPS officer and unidentified “others” for alleged corruption in the Narada ‘sting’ case which had visuals of money changing hands.
The CBI said an FIR has been lodged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code section 120B on criminal conspiracy.
TMC leaders named in the FIR include Mukul Roy, Sultan Ahmed, Madan Mitra, Iqbal Ahmed, Firhad Hakim Sougata Ray, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasoon Banerjee, Subhendu Adhikari, Sovan Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee, Aparupa Poddar and IPS officer S M H Mirza. The FIR also mentioned “unknown persons” and CBI officials claimed there were “many others who were a part of the conspiracy but were not shown in the footage’’.
On March 17, the Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe but this was challenged by the state government in the Supreme Court. On March 21, the Supreme Court gave the CBI a month to conduct a preliminary inquiry and see if there was need for an FIR. With the deadline approached, the CBI lodged an FIR Monday. CBI officials said they examined video clips containing footage of senior TMC leaders and a Superintendent of Police who featured in the ‘sting’ operation.
The Narada tapes, released to several news organisation ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, showed people resembling the TMC leaders receiving money, allegedly for future favours. Mathew Samuel, editor of Narada News, had told the court that the ‘sting’ recording was done on an iPhone, transferred to a laptop and then stored in a pen drive.
A committee had taken possession of all devices after the Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe in the case. While ordering the investigation, the bench said: “There is no other investigating agency besides the CBI which is ‘independent’ and, therefore, it is essential that the preliminary inquiry should be conducted by that agency.”
PTI adds: Union Minister Babul Supriyo Monday said the CBI needs time to thoroughly probe the Narada and Saradha scams. “Those named in the scams allegedly happen to be influential leaders of the ruling party. Hence, the CBI needs time to prepare a watertight case to present before the court,” Supriyo told reporters. “The court decides on the basis of the evidence as to who would be remanded to custody and who would be acquitted. It is not a political maidan where you make allegations. You need to back them (allegations) up with evidence in the court room,” he said.