KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court on Friday granted bail to the three TMC MLAs and a former mayor of Kolkata arrested in connection with the Narada sting operation. In granting bail, a five-judge bench of the court rejected the CBI's argument that they are influential persons, who can tamper with evidence.
The court reminded the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the central agency, that the CBI started investigation four years ago and the accused were influential back then.
"We have an observation. The investigation started four years ago. Why the CBI did not arrest the accused in the past four years? They were influential when the probe was going on. Generally, the accused are arrested for the sake of investigation. When the agency did not feel the need to arrest them, why does it now wants to keep the accused in custody after submitting the charge sheet against them?" asked Justice Arijit Banerjee.
Under the terms of the bail, the accused are not allowed to talk to the media on pending cases against them. The court has also ordered that they must not tamper with evidence or try to influence the witnesses. They have been directed to furnish bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties of like amount.
The four have also been directed to appear before the CBI for interrogation as and when required, though this can be done virtually in light of the pandemic.
Two TMC ministers - Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee - party MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the CBI from their residences on May 17, the day the central agency filed charge-sheets against the four.
As the news of their arrest spread, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI’s office in Nizam Palace, Kolkata and staged a dharna.
The Narada sting tapes, which were made public before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, were claimed to have been shot in 2014, wherein people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were allegedly seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.