KOLKATA: The CBI probing the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam on Tuesday received a shot in the arm as the Alipore court here granted permission to interrogate jailed West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra, presently lodged in the state-owned super speciality SSKM Hospital.
Though Mitra’s counsel opposed the CBI plea to quiz the Minister, the judge ruled that the sleuths could question him within seven days even if he remained in the hospital.
Mitra, arrested in December last year, was charged by the CBI for being one of the largest beneficiaries of the scam that affected 17 lakh people in West Bengal.
Even after hiring a high profile lawyer and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, Mitra failed to obtain bail from the Calcutta High Court on August 6. Sibal had pleaded that if needed, his client would resign from the Cabinet since the CBI was describing him as an “influential man” who could prevail upon witnesses and derail the probe.
Countering Sibal, CBI counsel K Raghavacharalu had said that the statements of witnesses, including the minister’s former aide Bapi Karim and Saradha scamstar Sudipto Sen revealed that Mitra used to visit the Saradha Group’s office at midnight and receive packets.
The CBI placed the case diaries before the High Court Bench and mentioned that several witnesses were still coming forward with the information about Mitra’s involvement in the scam, though the central agency had chargesheeted him in February.
Raghavacharalu stressed that Mitra was capable of influencing the witnesses and that would severely affect the ongoing CBI investigation ordered by the Supreme Court. He stated that before Mitra’s arrest, none were willing to record their secret statements but later they did so.
Sources said in order to shed the “influential man” tag, Mitra might return to Alipore Jail before moving the Supreme Court for bail to be freed before the Durga Puja, the main festival of Bengalis, in October.
The CBI had sought Mitra’s medical report as he has been staying in an AC room at the VIP Woodburn ward of the SSKM Hospital on grounds of ill health during the last six months. The Alipore Jail Superintendent, who initially refused to furnish the medical report, ultimately relented last week.
The ruling TMC has remained silent, though Mitra was repeatedly denied bail by the lower courts and at last by the High Court.
Following Mitra’s arrest, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had taken to the streets and led a procession alleging a BJP conspiracy.