Narada scam: SC annuls HC order refusing to accept replies of Mamata, Bengal law minister
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday annulled the Calcutta High Court's June 9 order refusing to take on record the affidavits of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Law Minister Moloy Ghatak on their role on the day of arrest of four Trinamool Congress leaders on May 17 by CBI in Narada scam case.
A vacation bench of justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari asked the high court to decide "de-novo" the fresh pleas, to be filed by Banerjee, Ghatak and the state government by June 28, before proceeding with the main petition of the CBI seeking transfer of the scam case to the high court itself.
The top court said the three parties "ought to have filed an application for taking their respective counter affidavits on record, especially when the submissions/ arguments of the parties were going on and had progressed substantially".
The bench said the matter could be remanded to the high court to decide it afresh on the basis of the reasons to be given in the applications which may be filed by the parties within a specified time.
"The counsel for the parties have graciously agreed to this suggestion of the Court. Accordingly, we dispose of these three petitions with directions," it said.
"In view of the fact that June 29, 2021 is the date fixed before the High Court, we direct that the petitioners may file their respective applications giving reasons to bring the counter affidavits filed by them on June 7 and June 9 respectively on record, by Monday that is June 28, after serving advance copies on the counsel for the Central Bureau Of Investigation and other necessary parties, on or before June 27," the bench said in the order.
CBI and others may file their replies to the application by June 29, after serving an advance copy to the counsel of Banerjee, Ghatak and the state government a day before, it said.
"We request the High Court to first decide the aforesaid applications of the petitioners herein, for taking the counter affidavit/affidavits in response on record, before proceeding to decide the merits of the case," it said.
"We may further add that to avoid any prejudice to be caused to any of the parties, the order dated June 9 shall stand annulled and the High Court shall decide the matter de-novo," it added.
The top court made clear that the five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court headed by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal "shall decide the further course of action and proceed with the matter" after deciding the pleas of the three parties.
The CBI has alleged that Banerjee, Ghatak and other TMC leaders had played a key role in stopping it from performing legal duty after arresting four leaders in the case.
It claimed that while Banerjee sat on a dharna at the CBI office in Kolkata soon after the arrest of the four accused, Ghatak had been present at the Banshall Court premises during the virtual hearing of the case before the special CBI court on May 17.
The high court had on June 9 refused to accept the reply-affidavits of the state, the chief minister and the law minister on their role, saying it would consider this aspect later.
Ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the CBI which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the high court.
The vacation bench said it would hear the lawyers for five minutes each to decide whether a full-fledged hearing was needed.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Banerjee and Ghatak, said the replies were needed to be taken on record for proper and just adjudication of the CBI petition.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the state, said that as per the high court rules, the permission to file an affidavit was not necessary and the state sought it as a courtesy which was denied.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, opposed the pleas for bringing on record the replies saying that the order of the High court was "fully justified as the petitioners have been participating in the proceedings there and by not filing their response, they had waived their right to file the same."
He said the CBI had moved a plea for transfer of trial and declaration of proceedings in the trial court, granting bail to the four accused, as nullity on various grounds.
"I had objected to the filing of the affidavits saying that they were filed to fill up the lacunae. They have taken a calculated risk," he said.
The bench said, "any observations made by us in this order shall not have any bearing on the merit consideration of the matters by the High Court."
The five-judge bench of high court, comprising ACJ Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee, had granted interim bail on May 28 to the four Narada scam accused.
The special CBI court had granted them bail on May 17 itself, but the order was stayed by the high court, which remanded them to judicial custody.
They had been placed under house arrest on May 21 by the high court, modifying its earlier order of stay on the bail.
The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal, in 2014 wherein some people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.
At that time, the four arrested politicians were ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government.
The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.