KOLKATA: Legal experts have questioned the legality of West Bengal government's decision to probe the Narada News sting operation at a time when the Calcutta High Court is already examining the issue.
Describing the sting as "a provocation and conspiracy to create a hostile public reaction", Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday ordered the probe to be conducted by Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar.
Carried out by news portal Narada News, the sting caught on camera over a dozen Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including former union ministers, state cabinet heavyweights and MPs, accepting money purportedly in return for promising to do favours to a fictitious company.
Legal experts said the probe ordered by the government amounted to interference in the judicial process as the high court has been hearing multiple public interest litigation (PIL) petitions seeking an independent investigation.
"The high court has ordered forensic examination of the tapes and is slated to hear the matter; so when the matter is sub judice, ordering a probe like this is wholly improper," former Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly told IANS.
"The court is not only seized of the matter but has also taken steps in this regard. So ordering such a probe amounts to interference with the court's process and can be legally challenged," he said.
Hearing the PIL petitions, a bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A. Banerjee on April 29 ordered a forensic test on the Narada News sting tapes to be conducted by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) of Hyderabad.
Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, an advocate who is involved in the court case, said he will be moving the high court against the Banerjee government's decision to conduct a probe.
"The probe order really speaks about the intent of the state government to derail the investigation which the high court was contemplating to pass (an order on)," Bhattacharya told IANS.
"This is interfering with the order of the court. We will be moving the high Court against this on Monday."
However, Rama Prasad Sarkar, who had filed one of the PIL petitions, welcomed the government's move.
"In the PIL we had sought a detailed investigation into the entire sting. So the government has done the right thing by ordering a probe," said Sarkar.
Meanwhile, the ruling TMC hit back at CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra for ridiculing the probe order.
Alluding to the TMC leadership and Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, Mishra on Friday tweeted: "The accused in the Narada sting now declares to conduct an investigation and that too by its henchman cop!! Farce of the highest order!!"
TMC Rajya Sabha member Derek O'Brien said: "Look who's tweeting! Shame. A defeated, frustrated man like S.K. Mishra. Why are they scared? Are they conspirators? Let truth come out".