While issuing notice to Kumar, a bench headed by Chief justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the agency has to convince the top court why custody of the former Kolkata Police Commissioner was needed in the case.
The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from West Bengal cadre IPS officer Rajeev Kumar on CBI’s appeal challenging the anticipatory bail granted to him in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam case. While issuing notice to Kumar on CBI’s appeal, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, that the probe agency has to convince the court why the former Kolkata Police Commissioner’s custody was needed in the case. “We are issuing notice. You have to convince us why his custody is necessary. That is the only thing. Otherwise he is a high ranking official,” the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, told Mehta.
Mehta told the bench that Kumar was earlier absconding for quite some time and he has suppressed relevant materials which were collected by him during the probe. The Saradha group of companies allegedly duped lakhs of people to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore, promising higher rates of return on their investments. Kumar was part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the West Bengal government for probing the scam before the Supreme Court handed over the case, along with other chit fund cases, to the CBI in 2014. The Saradha chit fund scam was unearthed in 2013 during Kumar’s tenure as the Bidhannagar Police Commissioner.
The top court was hearing CBI’s plea against the October 1 order of the Calcutta High Court which had granted anticipatory bail to Kumar, saying it was not an appropriate case for custodial interrogation. The CBI has told the apex court that Kumar was required to be arrested and his custodial interrogation was needed in the case. In its order, the high court had said if Kumar was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case, he would have to be released immediately on bail by an appropriate court on two sureties of Rs 50,000 each. Observing that Kumar had cooperated with the CBI in the probe, the high court had said it was not an appropriate case for his custodial interrogation.
It had directed Kumar, who is currently the Additional Director General of the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department (CID), to cooperate with investigating officers. It had also directed him to make himself available before the investigating officers in the case for questioning on a 48-hour prior notice by the CBI. On September 21, a pre-arrest bail plea of the IPS officer was rejected by the Alipore District and Sessions Court after which he had approached the high court. The CBI has issued multiple notices to Kumar since May 27, asking him to appear before it for questioning as a witness in the Saradha chit fund scam.
In January, the Centre and the West Bengal government were locked in an unprecedented standoff after a CBI team had landed at Kumar’s official residence for questioning him but had to retreat as the local police detained its officers. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had came out in Kumar’s defence and started a sit-in protest against the Centre’s move.
The Supreme Court had, on February 5, prevented the CBI from taking any coercive action against Kumar and directed him to cooperate with the agency for questioning at a “neutral place”. He was then quizzed by the agency for nearly 40 hours over five days at its office in Shillong in February.