The hearing of a petition seeking quashing of a CBI plea for the custodial interrogation of the former head of Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Saradha chit fund scam, Rajeev Kumar ended at Calcutta High Court today. The matter was being heard before Justice Madhumati Mitra of this court whose interim order of not taking any coercive action against Kumar will continue till the delivery of the judgement. Kumar had been embroiled in a controversy for being at loggerheads with the CBI over its investigations into the Saradha chit fund and Rose Valley scams.

A team of CBI officers was stopped from entering the residence of Kumar, who was at the time the city police chief, on 3 February, 2019 when they had gone to question him in connection with the scam cases. The move had led chief minister Mamata Banerjee to sit on a dharna in the heart of the city, protesting against the CBI’s act. The CBI officers’ raid on Rajeev Kumar was, according to Mamata Banerjee “an attack on constitutional norms”. The Supreme Court on 5 February asked the Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and cooperate with its investigation into the Saradha chit fund scam.

It was decided that Kumar would appear before the CBI in Shillong, a neutral place for both sides. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had also asked the CBI to refrain from taking any coercive steps against Kumar, including arrest. It had also issued notices to West Bengal chief secretary Malay De, the state’s director-general of police Virendra Kumar and the Kolkata Police commissioner Kumar on a contempt plea by the CBI. Replies had been sought by 18 February, based on which the court would have decided if they were required to appear personally before it.

Acting on the apex court’s order, the CBI had questioned Kumar for several days in Shillong from 9 February. On 30 May, Rajeev Kumar filed a plea in the Calcutta High Court seeking quashing of a CBI notice asking him to appear before the agency in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam case. He was summoned by the CBI to appear before it but did not turn up for the questioning. He wrote a letter to the agency saying that he was on leave. Kumar’s move comes a day after a CBI official said the agency is making a strong case against him to counter his plea for anticipatory bail.

A look-out notice was issued against Kumar by the CBI even as its officials claimed that they were unaware of his whereabouts. Airports and land ports were alerted and officials were asked not to allow him leave the country During the hearing, the counsel of Kumar, who is now the additional director general (ADG) of CID had submitted at length opposing his client’s custodial interrogation. The petitioner’s official post was referred to as one of the reasons of not taking him into custody and to underscore the point, mention was also made of his being recipient of a President’s award for his services.

The CBI investigation was harassing in nature, it was alleged and it was pointed out that former minister Madan Mitra was arrested by CBI after he was called for questioning. It was also pointed out that Kumar was in no way connected with the nitty gritties of the investigation. On the other hand, his involvement was mainly liasoning for the team. It was an incorrect submission on the part of Kumar’s counsel that CBI did not recover any document or property in the course of its investigation, the central probe agency’s counsel submitted.

How can Kumar go to Supreme Court to assist lawyers if he has stated in his affadavit that he knows nothing about the case. The SIT probe was to catch the small fry and let go the big ones, the CBI counsel submitted. Most part of the CBI counsel’s submission was in camera after Kumar’s counsel asked for it, pleading that media reports of the hearing were “creating problems”.