The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the CBI is free to take action against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her law minister or anyone who attempted to subvert the rule of law.
The apex court was hearing the CBI's appeal challenging the house-arrest of four TMC leaders in the Narada case by the Calcutta High Court.
According to the CBI, the West Bengal chief minister had rushed to its office on May 17 and passed several derogatory and defamatory comments about the probe agency. She sat on dharna for six-long-hours, while an unruly mob continued to swell in an organized way, causing obstruction to the proceedings that were to be carried out by the investigating officer post arrest of the accused persons, the agency said.
The CBI added thousands of followers of Trinamool Congress laid siege on the CBI building at Nizam Palace in Kolkata last Monday, constantly trying to disrupt the process of law by engaging in stone pelting.
A bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and B.R. Gavai told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, it did not approve of the conduct of the chief minister and law minister in laying siege of the CBI office, and also supporters thronging the trial court.
The bench noted that there is ample remedy in the Constitution to address such situations, and remarked, "We are not here to advise the government or CBI."
The bench told Mehta: "Why should the accused persons be made to suffer because of a dharna by the chief minister and law minister?...Proceed against them if you wish to."
The bench noted it does not appreciate such dharnas by the chief minister to pressurize the agency, but can the accused be made to suffer? The bench said: "We do not like to mix liberty of citizens with whatever illegal acts of politicians. We will not do that."
However, the top court queried CBI, who is more in a position to influence the witnesses, those who were chargesheeted or those who have not been?"
On CBI's contention to move the matter to another state, the bench observed that it may demoralize the High Court.
The top court insisted that Calcutta High Court's five-judge bench was already hearing the matter, and queried CBI whether it would want to withdraw its appeal.
Mehta submitted "it is happening periodically in the state that the CM barges into investigating agency office to help the accused". The bench reiterated, "if chief minister or law minister has taken law into their hands, proceed against them".
However, the CBI withdrew its appeal from the top court.
Kolkata witnessed high drama on May 17 after CBI sleuths arrested two Trinamool Congress ministers -- Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee -- along with present MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor Sovon Chattopadhyay -- in connection with the 2016 Narada sting tapes case, in which several politicians and a high-ranked police officer were allegedly found accepting cash for providing unofficial favours to a fictitious company.
The Acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court had on Friday constituted a five-member bench to hear the interim bail plea of the four Trinamool heavy-weights.
The matter was referred to the five-judge bench after the two judges of the high court division bench differed with each other.