The Supreme Court today termed the allegation of the West Bengal police obstructing the CBI in its probe into the multi-crore Saradha ponzi scam as “sorry state of affairs” and directed that the probe agency officials should not be summoned for questioning by the state SIT.
The top court also observed that due to such obstructions, the prosecution of those accused in the scam was getting delayed.
The issue came up when the counsel for CBI made certain allegations which were countered by their counterparts representing the state government.
“They (CBI and SIT) are obstructing each other. This is a sorry state of affairs. We are not happy with it. This is not the way things should go on. Whoever is the culprit needs to be booked. It should not be the case that investigating agencies are siding with the accused,” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S A Abdul Nazeer said.
Observing that it was not happy with such allegations, the bench said the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the West Bengal police cannot summon CBI officials for questioning, as the apex court had in 2014 asked the central probe agency to investigate the alleged scam.
Justice Mishra said that when he was the Calcutta High Court Chief Justice, this case had come up before it for the first time but he had refused to hear it.
“Till now, there is no prosecution against the accused. Most of the accused are out on bail. In 2014, this court had ordered CBI probe, but till now not much headway has been made,” the bench added.
The top court warned that if it went into the record of allegations against the SIT or the CBI, then it would “leave a bitter taste”. “This is a serious kind of case and probe agencies should not take it lightly,” the court said.
The CBI counsel alleged that the SIT constituted by the state government has been obstructing the probe done by CBI and they have been summoning the probe agencies officials investigating the case.
“CBI had once summoned the SIT commissioner for recording his statement after the case was handed over to it but since then the SIT had been summoning CBI officials, which in turn is hampering the investigation,” the counsel said.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal government, said CBI officials were never summoned as accused but were called for their statement related to a particular incident in which there was a magistrate court’s order.
To this, the bench said, “no, you can’t call them. This is not the way and not a correct thing. They have to work in tandem with each other”.
The top court granted liberty to the CBI to raise its concern or grievances, if any, before the high court.
The apex court had in May 2014 directed the CBI to probe the Saradha scam in West Bengal as well as 44 similar unlicensed outfits in Odisha, which had raised thousands of crores of rupees from gullible investors.
It had directed the police in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam to cooperate with the central agency and give it details of all cases filed so far.
The court had said the state police had not been able to make much headway in the conspiracy angle, money trail and the seizure of the properties related to the scam.
The West Bengal government, all through the hearing, had strongly resisted the plea for handing over the investigation to the CBI.
The top court had also ordered that the Enforcement Directorate should join the CBI in tracking the money trail.