Centre vs Bengal: Kolkata police chief must assist, but CBI can’t arrest him, orders SC

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New Delhi | Published: February 6, 2019 6:12:19 AM

Addressing the media, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee termed the Supreme Court order a “moral victory because we respect the judiciary. We always wanted to cooperate”.

Centre vs Bengal, mamata banerjee, Kolkata police chief, CBI, supreme court, Chief Justice Ranjan GogoiMamata was on a dharna since Sunday night. On Monday, she described her sit-in over the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata police chief as a “non-political” protest. (IE)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI and cooperate with the investigations relating to the Saradha chit fund scam, but restrained the agency from arresting him or taking any coercive action against the commissioner . Kumar would appear before the CBI at a “neutral place” in Shillong, the apex court said. A bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued contempt notices to the West Bengal chief secretary, the director general of police (DGP) and Kumar for allegedly detaining the CBI probe team, destroying electronic evidence and obstructing investigations. It posted the matter for further hearing on February 20, the day when the apex court will also decide if the alleged contemners are required to appear personally before the court.

Addressing the media, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee termed the Supreme Court order a “moral victory because we respect the judiciary. We always wanted to cooperate”. Mamata was on a dharna since Sunday night. On Monday, she described her sit-in over the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata police chief as a “non-political” protest.

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Kumar, who was heading the special investigation team that was probing the Saradha chit fund and the Rose Valley ponzi scams, was summoned for questioning by the CBI on several occasions after some documents relating to the scams went missing. Kumar allegedly did not respond to repeated summons over the past two years. The CBI had approached the Supreme Court against the “non-cooperation” of the West Bengal government after the state police allegedly detained and later released a team of CBI officials who had reached Kumar’s residence to question him on February 3.

Accusing Kumar of “shielding guilty companies, doctoring evidence” and handing over incomplete data to the CBI and destroying electronic evidence in the case, the CBI told the judges that even call data records given to it by the SIT were not complete and less calls were shown in the data.

Attorney general KK Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta appeared for CBI, while senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the West Bengal government. The attorney general argued that there was a complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery in Kolkata and the state police was not cooperating with the probe.

Sighvi opposed the CBI’s claims, saying “all these are attempts to humiliate us”. “If the evidence was destroyed, what was the CBI doing for five years?” He submitted that the CBI officers were neither arrested nor detained.“I have videos of the episode”, he added.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal CM called off her sit-in on Tuesday evening and said she was doing so after consulting leaders of major Opposition parties and following “a favourable court order”.

(With inputs from PTI)

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