Mamata vs CBI: A little foresight and prudent steps would have avoided a political crisis

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Updated: February 6, 2019 8:43:14 PM

After the political drama that further deepened the political divide in the country, the CBI eventually knocked on the doors of the top court that had ordered the agency in 2014 to probe the scam.

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.

The political drama that unfolded after the CBI’s decision to question Kolkata police commissioner Rajiv Kuamr in the Supreme Court directed Saradha chit fund scam probe should serve as an eye opener for all investigating agencies. Both the governments and the investigating agencies will come out the battle badly bruised irrespective of the outcome of the probe and the court verdict that will ensue. More importantly, the credibility of both the parties will suffer damage beyond repair.

The Union government’s anti-corruption agency seemed to have won the first round as the Supreme Court directed the police commissioner to appear before the agency, but the court restrained it from arresting the police officer.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the CBI has accused the 1989 batch West Bengal cadre officer of tempering and destroying the crucial evidence in multi-thousand crore Saradha and Rose Valley chit-fund cases that delayed the filing of chargesheets.

The confrontation between Kolkata Police and CBI blew out in open when a CBI team, that had gone to question Kumar on Sunday evening, was detained by Kolkata police. Amid the political drama, the stand taken by TMC Supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee surprised many observers. In a show of solidarity with the accused officer, Mamata Banerjee staged a sit-in for three days outside the police officer’s residence.

It was extremely unusual for Mamata Banerjee, as she had never resorted to this kind of methods when several high profile MPs of her party were arrested by the CBI in connection with the Saradha probe. During the course of investigation, the CBI had already arrested top TMC leaders like Srinjoy Bose, Madan Mitra (transport minister in the state government) and Rajat Majumdar and two MPs Sudip Bandopadhyay and Tapas Pal but Mamata never resorted to this kind of sit-in protests.

Perhaps, this led the CBI to believe that it can arrest Kolkata police commissioner during the course of investigation without much resistance. However, it turned out to be an error of judgement as unlike politicians, the 1989 batch West Bengal cadre officer was representing a police force and it instantly became a prestige issue for both the forces.

It was widely rumoured that the CBI was hot on the trail of Kolkata Police Commissioner as the agency had already sent summons and served three notices to him to join the probe. These rumours gained further currency when the officer did not meet the team of Election Commission of India that was in the city on January 31 to evaluate the preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

It was clear that the officer was avoiding the scrutiny by the agency as he failed to appear before the

CBI despite agency writing to state police chief. However, CBI officers apparently made a mistake in the politically sensitive case as they moved to question a top police officer ignoring the politics that could follow the action. Instead of rushing to question the police commissioner, the CBI should have approached the top court with all the materials it has against the officer.

After the political drama that further deepened the political divide in the country, the agency eventually knocked on the doors of the top court that had ordered the agency in May 2014 to probe the case. A little foresight and wise planning would have helped it avoid politicisation of its investigation.

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