In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to make himself available before the CBI and "faithfully" cooperate with the agency in investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam probe.
However, the apex court made it clear that no coercive steps, including the arrest of the Kolkata Police chief, will take place during the course of investigation.
The Supreme Court asked Rajeev Kumar to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation at Shillong in Meghalaya.
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hailed the Supreme Court order as “our moral victory” and said that the face-off between the CBI and the Kolkata Police was nothing but a case of “political vendetta”.
The BJP, on the other hand, said that the SC order was a moral victory for the investigating agency.
Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad welcomed the order and said it's a blow to the Mamata Banerjee government and a victory for the CBI. It also showed that nobody is above the law, including the police commissioner, he added.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi also issued a notice to Kumar and sought his response before February 20, the next date of hearing on the allegations by the CBI that he was tampering with electronic evidence and that the SIT headed by him provided the agency with doctored materials.
The court directed Kumar to make himself available before the CBI and "faithfully cooperate" in the Saradha scam probe.
The apex court also directed the West Bengal chief secretary, the director general of police (DGP) and the Kolkata Police commissioner to file replies on the contempt pleas filed against them by the CBI on or before February 18.
The bench also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna said on consideration of replies of the chief secretary, the DGP and the Kolkata police commissioner, the court might prefer the personal appearance of these three authorities on February 20.
The bench said the apex court's secretary general will inform them on February 19 whether they are required to be present before the apex court on February 20.
Banerjee is on a sit-in against the CBI's attempt to question the Kolkata Police chief in connection with chit fund scams. Her protest entered the third day on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court's order is a victory of the common man, democracy and the Constitution, Banerjee told reporters at the dharna venue in central Kolkata.
"There must be some story behind this. Nobody can dare to speak against (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) Modi. Our's is a mass agitation and we are going to fight it unitedly," the chief minister said.
Banerjee sat on a "Save India" dharna in front of Metro Cinema in the heart of Kolkata on Sunday night insisting that the latest CBI action was tantamount to stifling the spirit of "Constitution and federalism" in the country.
"We always respect the law and feel that things should run as per the law. But, if someone tries to destroy the pillars on which democracy stands, then there would be nothing left of the democratic process that we are so proud of.
"We really welcome the [Supreme Court] verdict. It is absolutely correct. Our case is very strong. We never said we will not cooperate. This is political vendetta," Banerjee said.
Several opposition leaders, including Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, DMK's Kanimozhi, RJD's Tejaswhi Yadav, have supported Banerjee's protest.
(With PTI inputs)