Two Trinamool Congress (TMC) ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Corporation Mayor Sovon Chattopadhyay have been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday in the Narada sting tapes cases where several politicians and a high-ranked police officer were allegedly found accepting cash bribes in exchange for providing unofficial favours to a company.
“Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee have been arrested by CBI and are being produced in the jurisdictional court,” the CBI said in a statement adding that the charge sheet against the five persons against whom prosecution sanction is received is being submitted in the court.
The CBI had earlier arrested IPS officer SMH Meerza in connection with the case. He is presently out on bail. The CBI said that it has received the prosecution sanction against the four arrested leaders on May 7.
Meanwhile, State Transport Minister and former Kolkata Mayor Hakim told the media after he was arrested from his Chetla home in South Kolkata earlier in the day, “They have not given any notice and now they have arrested me. They didn’t even seek the permission of the Speaker. We will fight it in the court.”
Along with Hakim, three others were brought to the CBI regional office at Nizam Palace in the morning.
The CBI officers with large central forces went to the houses of the leaders and the ministers in the morning at around 9.30 a.m. and brought them to the regional office without even allowing them to speak to their lawyers.
Sources in the agency said that all of them were made to sit in separate rooms on the 15th floor of the office and they were allowed to consult their lawyers.
Though questions have been raised about the arrest of two cabinet ministers without the permission of the Speaker, the CBI officials said that they had sought the permission of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who gave them the permission to prosecute.
“We will appeal for the bail,” one of the lawyers said.
The arrests obviously attracted controversy because Governor Dhankhar has accorded sanction of the prosecution to the premiere agency just a few hours before the oath-taking ceremony of the ministers.
“The plea for sanction was made a little before MCC came to an end. I thought it as an act of propriety that at that point of time I should not be giving attention to the matter.
“The moment the poll process was over, the matter engaged my attention because such issues should not be delayed and so I acted and you know the results.
“As coming to issues on people taking oath in respect of whom sanctions for prosecution has been accorded is a matter of propriety to be taken not by those who make a request to the governor to appoint them,” Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI regional office to speak to her cabinet ministers.
The chief minister appeared angry as she entered the CBI office and met her leaders.
Lawyers present on the floor said that the chief minister questioned the CBI officers about the legality of the arrests and even said that she would wait till the end until there is a proper conclusion to the whole incident.
“The BJP is taking a vindictive stance. Why are Suvendu and Mukul, who are also accused in the Narada case, not arrested? They are trying to take revenge for their defeat. We will fight the case in the court,” senior Trinamool leader Saugata Roy said.
The arrests created huge controversy and protests all over the city as the Trinamool Congress supporters breaking the lockdown norms blocked the road in front of Nizam Palace and several other places in the city.
They demanded immediate release of the leaders. A large number of central forces cordoned off Nizam Palace and nobody was allowed to enter the area.
(With IANS inputs)